‘Pork holiday’ looms in Metro Manila
MANILA, Philippines — An agricultural group has pressed the Department of Agriculture (DA) for support to hog raisers battling steep production and transport costs amid calls by traders and vendors for a “pork holiday” to protest price ceilings on pork and chicken in Metro Manila starting Monday.
“Transport costs have ballooned, with the pork coming from Visayas and Mindanao, and traders are now facing tripled or quadrupled costs … With the price cap, how are the vendors going to sell?” said Jayson Cainglet, executive director of the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag).
In an interview on Sunday, Cainglet said the DA should subsidize the P30-per-kilo transport cost to help defray the expenses of raisers who are shipping their pork products to Metro Manila.
Metro Manila prices
Pork prices have soared as the local hog industry battles the spread of African swine fever. The disease has disrupted the operations of hog farms in Batangas, Bulacan and nearby provinces, prompting hog raisers in the Visayas and Mindanao to supply Metro Manila.
President Duterte issued Executive Order No. 124, which imposes the price ceilings on pork shoulder, or “kasim,” and pork leg or ham, or “pigue,” at P270 per kilo, and on pork belly, or “liempo,” at P300.
For dressed chicken, the price ceiling was set at P160 a kilo.
The price caps will be enforced in Metro Manila’s public markets and supermarkets selling imported pork for 60 days beginning Monday.
Without government support, the acceptable price of pork, given the current situation, would be between P330 and P390 per kilo, Sinag said.
Cainglet said his group empathized with vendors and traders who would opt to stop selling pork due to the price ceilings.
“There is no shortage, but the DA is not helping the situation,” he said. “If ever there would be a supply disruption starting tomorrow (Monday), we are holding [Agriculture] Secretary [William] Dar responsible.”
He said Sinag had been calling for support from Dar since last year.
Sinag said the subsidy in transport cost was a better solution compared to the DA’s proposal to cut tariffs imposed on imported pork, which, it said, would ruin the local hog industry.
“Reducing tariffs would only be beneficial to importers,” Cainglet said.
In the hog-producing
Soccsksargen region, the price of premium pork has risen by as much as 33 percent due to stiff competition between local meat vendors and traders from the Visayas and Luzon for the supply of pigs.
But as of Saturday, meat vendors in Koronadal City, the regional seat, had been selling liempo for P299 to P320 per kilo at a major supermarket and meat shop, and P280 in roadside stalls from P190 last December.
On Jan. 28, the DA regional office pegged the price of pork cuts at P188 to P192 per kilo.
Shipment out of region
The purchase of pigs for transport to the Visayas and Metro Manila has dramatically increased in the last several weeks, driving up farm-gate prices.
In General Santos City, the region’s economic hub, prices of pork ranged from P260 to P300 per kilo.
Local hog raisers prefer to ship their products outside the region due to better prices, causing tight supply, said DA regional director Arlan Mangelen.
“Due to the presence of ASF (African swine fever) in some parts of the country, commercial hog raisers in Region 12, particularly in South Cotabato and General Santos City, engaged in conservative swine production for fear the highly contagious disease will infect their farms,” said Myrna Habacon, regional director of the National Meat Inspection Service.
In Cagayan Valley, the shortage of pork supply in markets has driven up prices but hog retailers in Cagayan Valley deny allegations of getting hefty profits from overpricing.
Vendors in Ilagan City, Isabela province, have been buying their stocks at “steep
prices” from a few local hog raisers, said their spokesperson, Rogelio Robles Jr.
“We could not even buy pigs from other towns and provinces as we are not allowed due to the ASF scare,” Robles said on Saturday.
Pork was being sold at P340 a kilo for boneless meat and pork chop, at P320. Dressed chicken was also sold for as high as P280 a kilo.
In Northern Mindanao, the DA regional technical director for operations, Carlota Madriaga, said he had dialogued with hog producers and determined why pork prices spiked though production costs did not go up.
Madriaga earlier branded as only “artificial” the surge in pork prices in the region, attributing it to competition for tight supply between local meat vendors and traders bringing hogs to the Visayas and Luzon.
The region is supposedly 600 percent pork-sufficient, but the meat there is sold at P280 per kilo, way higher than the price ceiling set by the government for Metro Manila during the 60-day period.
—With reports from Bong S. Sarmiento, Jigger J. Jerusalem and Villamor Visaya Jr.
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