Low-priced pork imports to fill supply gap

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    Market visit. Lopez (left) and Dar lead a price monitoring activity in a wet market in Quezon City on Feb. 9,2021, the second day of the implementation of price caps on pork and chicken. (DA photo)

    By JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR and JED MACAPAGAL

    In what is practically an endorsement to buy imported pork in groceries and supermarkets, the government is giving high-priced locally-raised pork sold in wet market competition consumers may not be able resist.

    Secretary Ramon Lopez of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said in a briefing yesterday imported pork typically sold in groceries will be cheaper than the price caps set by the government.

    This developed as Secretary William Dar of the Department of Agriculture (DA) said an advisory council recommended to import all of the expected pork supply deficit of 388,790 metric tons (MT) under current minimum access volume (MAV) which will enjoy lower duties.

    Dar said the recommendation for the additional volume, or MAV plus, will need to get the concurrence from at least six departments such as the Departments of Finance, Trade and Industry, Science and Technology, and Agrarian Reform before it is submitted to President Duterte for approval.

    He said the MAV allocation for pork for 2021 is 54,000 MT.

    MAV refers to the volume of a specific agricultural product allowed to be imported with a lower tariff. Pork imports falling under MAV are levied a 30 percent tariff compared with 40 percent on those outside MAV .

    Apart from the increased MAV allocation, the government is exploring other measures to increase the supply of pork in the country and eventually bring down the price.

    Dar said these include allowing hog raisers to import pork instead of limiting the activity to traders as well providing funds and loan for the repopulation of hog farms and backyard activities in the country.

    Additional supply of pork for Metro Manila is also currently being sourced from Visayas and Mindanao.

    In a separate briefing, DA Assistant Secretary Arnel De Mesa said Metro Manila’s average daily requirements is at 4,000 hogs while 7,403 hogs are being transported from different regions.

    De Mesa said on a daily basis, Ilocos supplies 926 hogs, Calabarzon with 2,690, Mimaropa with 500, Western Visayas with 429, Northern Mindanao with 1,429 and Soccsksargen also with 1,429.

    Lower price caps

    Lopez said the government is looking at imposing a separate price cap for imported pork products.

    The DA and the DTI are doing the computations and the prices are expected to be released this week. The landed cost of pork imports will be based on January data, Lopez said.

    Price caps have been set at P270 per kilogram of pork kasim and P300 per kilogram of pork liempo.

    Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura chairperson Rosendo So, who also attended the briefing, said they are not against the importation of pork but the plan to lower the tariff on the imported products.

    He said traders who import the pork can pay the current tariff.

    Repopulation

    The DA said the repopulation of hogs in the country will be in full swing as 300 of the over 400 municipalities affected by African swine fever (ASF) did not report new cases in the past month.

    De Mesa said in an online briefing yesterday repopulation will only be conducted in green zones or areas that are either protected or fully free from the disease as well as in possible micro zones where hog raising is allowed.

    “We will make sure that the areas are free from infections. We are (now) deploying sentinel pigs,” De Mesa added.

    Sentinel pigs are going to be placed in formerly infected areas to be monitored for six weeks to check if they will show signs and symptoms of ASF. The repopulation program has secured an initial funding of P600 million.

    De Mesa said the DA is also strictly monitoring all hog shipments bound for Metro Manila following reports some are being diverted to other provinces such as Bulacan.

    As of Jan. 22, 2021, 12 regions, 38, provinces, 437 municipalities/cities and 2,270 barangays are affected by ASF that resulted in the culling 435,657 culled hogs. (With I. Isip)