Gov’t to set price ceiling on imported pork
MANILA, Philippines — To protect consumers in anticipation of more stocks coming in from abroad, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is imposing a suggested retail price (SRP) on frozen imported pork beginning April 9.
In an online briefing on Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said with the price ceiling on local pork set to be lifted today, a price guidance on imported pork would take effect next.
The SRP for imported pork would be P270 a kilo for “kasim” (shoulder) and P350 a kilo for “liempo” (belly). Under the Price Act, resellers can be penalized if they set their price outside the cap.
Dar said the price parameter was to ensure that consumers would benefit from the expected approval of the agency’s twin proposals to reduce pork tariffs and raise the volume of imports.
The DA had recommended to raise the import volume to 404,210 metric tons (MT) from the current 54,210 MT and slash the pork tariff to 5 percent from 20 percent over the next 12 months.
Dar said these reforms were needed to bring down food prices and temper the country’s inflation rate, mostly driven by the exorbitant meat prices in the market in recent months.
The country’s antitrust body on Wednesday backed the DA’s proposal to import more pork, but stressed this should be part of a bigger solution to address the issue of higher prices.
Johannes Bernabe, commissioner of the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), agreed with the 350,000 MT increase in the minimum access volume (MAV), adding that “if MAV is fully utilized and shortage persists, [the government should] do another round of expansion.” The MAV is a mechanism under the World Trade Organization that sets a lower tariff for exports. Anything in excess of the MAV would be subjected to higher rates.
Bernabe said, however, there was no need to further lower the tariff because imports were already cheap. Collections could be used to support hog raisers, he added.
Since January this year, public wet markets and supermarkets have been flooded with cheaper imported pork as prices of freshly slaughtered meat skyrocketed to as much as P400 a kilo.
Videos collated by the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura showed, however, that some meat vendors were selling frozen pork without proper cold-storage facilities, a violation under the Food Safety Act.
Starting Friday, the DA would also require importers to package pork according to cut and in portions of 500 grams and/or a kilo.
Resellers and meat vendors willing to buy chest freezers would also be provided a grant of P45 million as cold storage is a requirement in selling imported frozen pork.
The DA, via local governments, would distribute about 2,500 chest freezers with a capacity of 150 kilos each at P18,000 per unit.
With the DA throwing its support to the sale of frozen imported pork, local hog raisers feared the African swine fever (ASF)-hit industry would never recover.
They said the availability of cheaper meat alternatives would drive most of them out of business and threaten the supply of local pork in the long run.
In a report published by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on Wednesday, the country’s local hog inventory in 2020 plunged to its lowest in 16 years amid the spread of ASF.
Drop in live hogs
From 41.14 million live hogs recorded in 2019, this declined by 11 percent in 2020 to 36.64 million. This was the lowest number of live hogs recorded in a year since 2004 when local inventory hit 35.31 million head.
The latest report is close to industry estimates that over 4 million pigs have already been lost to the viral hog disease—either from culling or from contracting ASF—against government estimates of more than 400,000 head.
The latest Swine Situation Report, published on Wednesday, did not include the number of live sows or “mother pigs” that could be used for repopulation.
Many infected pigs still find their way into the market as backyard farmers squeeze whatever profit they can get before the government catches up with them, according to Nicanor Briones, vice president of the Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines.
Since the first ASF outbreak was reported in Rizal in 2019, the disease has spread to 37 provinces and four cities in Metro Manila. The latest incident was reported in Northern Samar last month, based on the country’s report to the Organization for Animal Health.
—WITH A REPORT FROM ROY STEPHEN C. CANIVEL
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