Meat processors fear of P40 billion losses and the displacement of some 10,000 workers due to the African swine fever (ASF) scare , according to Jerome Ong, president of the Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (PAMPI).
“We are hit at the most critical time of the year,” Ong said, adding that the last quarter is the peak season of the industry.
Ong said PAMPI members have asked for a 5 to 11 percent increase in the price of ham which is typically consumed during the Christmas holidays while others have cut back production by as much as 30 percent.
The P40-billion lost sales will affect both meat processors and restaurants and food chains which use processed meats.
Ong appealed to President Duterte to issue the unified guidelines governing the ban of pork and processed meats by local government units (LGUs). These rules, he said, are based on the science-based rules of the World Organization for Animal Health.
Ong said the processed meat industry is practically parayzed all over the country after 51 of the 88 provinces imposed a total or partial ban on pork and processed meats.
He said meat processors cannot ship pork products even in areas where there is no ban because shipments have to pass through LGUs where the ban is in force.
He said some provinces have implemented the ban as early as September 11 or as late as October 1 for a period of 100 days. This means the ban could last until Christmas.
While most parts of Luzon are open including Metro Manila, the entire Central Luzon, all the way Pangasinan and La Union as well as Southern Tagalog, Calabarzon and Bicol, Ong said sales in these areas cannot make up for the opportunity losses in Visayas and Mindanao.
Ong said ASF has hit China where 20 percent of the country’s imports are sourced from; resulting in that country resorting to imports as well.
This has limited the source of choice cuts, pushing prices by as much as 70 percent for some cuts.
Ong said this should have resulted to a 20 to 40 percent increase in the price of ham, but PAMPI members are just asking for a 5 to 11 percent increase so as not to dampen demand.
He said the group has cut production by 30 percent at the busiest time of the year.
Ong said the industry would no longer hire seasonal employees like factory workers, merchandisers and logistics staff normally tapped in the last quarter of the year.
“By this time, ham orders from corporate clients and grocery stores should have started coming in. But we cannot quote our prices yet until we get the approval for a price adjustment,” said Ong.
PAMPI members which have submitted justification for a price increase are set to meet the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) today.
Last October 9, DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez and Agriculture Secretary William Dar met with PAMPI and hog raising groups National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc. (NFHFI) and Samahang Industriya sa Agrikultura (SINAG) where the meat processors committed to support the local industry by sourcing more of their raw materials from local hog raisers.
NFHFI and SINAG assured their members will only distribute ASF-free pork products.
To help facilitate local sourcing, the hog raisers and PAMPI said they will build a modern slaughterhouse to provide raw meat to be used by the meat processing companies.
The groups also agreed to set up a mechanism where meat imports are inspected at the border upon arrival to ensure these are ASF-free.
The groups also agreed to form a committee that will study how the current mismatch in the supply of choice cuts by local hog raisers could be addressed.
Ong said at present, 90 percent of the choice parts have to be imported.
NFHFI said farmgate prices of backyard raisers are now at P80 per kilo while for commercial farms, P90 to P100.
At this level, the group said retail prices should be at P170 per kilo.
At the meeting, Lopez and Dar reiterated that meat products with National Meat Inspection Service certificates are free from ASF and are safe for human consumption. ASF is also not communicable to humans.
PAMPI said its members only use NMIS-certified pork in their processed meat products, like hotdogs and canned meat. These finished products of major brands are also further certified by the Food and Drug Administration. (I. Isip)