Pork shortfall may top 500K MT

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    Slow business. Meat vendors tend to their stalls in a Mandaluyong public market, Jan. 29, 2021. (Photo by RHOY COBILLA)

    By JED MACAPAGAL and JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR

    Local pork production may not be able to serve a third of this year’s demand, highlighting the need to bring in imports, some of which would be at lower tariff.

    The country is facing a pork deficit of up to more than half a million metric tons (MT) this year as hog raisers hold back due to the African swine fever (ASF).

    In a press briefing, presidential spokesman Harry Roque quoted the Department of Agriculture (DA) as saying the projected shortage is at 400,000 MT.

    Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles assured government is reviewing the current minimum access volume (MAV) which allows importation at lower tariff to determine how much more should be imported to fill in the shortfall.

    Data presented by the DA at a Tariff Commission hearing yesterday showed
    pork supply deficit may reach 388,790 carcass MT based on its own simulation and up to 530,871 carcass MT as projected by industry.

    Industry estimates sow level to reach 949,486 for pork production of 1,087,484 MT while DA’s simulation places the sow level at 986,479 for pork production of 1,229,565 MT.

    Demand this year is projected at 1,618,355 MT.

    The government plans to triple the importation of pork under MAV which is placed annually 54,000 MT. If this plan proceeds, MAV imports would hit 162,000 MT.

    The DA has not set the total import requirements for the year despite these projections,
    Last year’s total imports amounted to 256,017.5 MT .

    But data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) would show a surplus this year of 147,041 MT. This is based on PSA’s actual data as of Oct. 1, 2020 which showed sow level of 1,541,373 for pork production of 1,765,396 MT against demand of 1,618,355 MT.

    On a quarterly basis, the DA said the fourth quarter will have the lowest available supply at 48,166 MT from a demand of 436,956 MT or a deficit of 88 days followed by the third quarter which will have a projected supply of 137,470 MT and a demand of 388,405 MT or a deficit of 57 days.

    The first quarter is expected to have the most available supply for the year with 332,263 MT against a demand of 388,405 MT or a deficit of 13 days while the second quarter is seen to produce 242,958 MT for a demand of 404,589 MT or a deficit of 36 days.

    Price cap

    A 60-day price cap on pork and chicken products have been ordered in Metro Manila starting February 8.

    Roque said the government is also determining if the supply from Visayas and Mindanao and a few areas in Luzon that had not been affected by the ASF would be enough to offset the need for pork especially in Metro Manila and other highly urbanized areas.

    Roque said the government is trying to find a balance between keeping the prices of pork affordable and accessible to consumers and ensure that the pork traders and hog farmers are still able to earn.

    Reildrin Morales, Bureau of Animal Industry director, said the country’s annual per capita consumption of pork is at 15 to 18 kg, based on the benchmark of 100 million people.

    Based on to data from the PSA, as of January 28, retail prices of pork kasim is at a high of P420 per kg and a low of P330 per kg. for a prevailing price of P360 per kg while pork liempo is at a high of P430 per kg but at a low of P350 per kg and prevailing at P400 per kg.
    Nograles said the current average farmgate price of hogs is now at P171 per kilo while price range is between P132 to P244 per kg.

    Under the present prices cap, pork, particularly the kasim and pigue part should not go beyond P270 per kg. while liempo parts should not go higher than P300 per kg.

    On calls of some sectors to observe a pork holiday during implementation of the price cap, Nograles said consumers, hog farmers and traders alike should weigh in different factors before they take such actions.

    “You have to weigh it. Is it beneficial? Is it not beneficial to the public, to consumers? What will be the effect on the market, to the many players comprising this whole ecosystem,” he said adding that the government is coming up with a package to assist the hog producers that had been heavily affected by the swine flu.

    Calibrated imports

    Meanwhile,  the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) has proposed for a  calibrated importation of pork as an immediate remedy to secure supply and bring down prices while ensuring zero contamination of the African swine fever (ASF).
    In a press statement, PCCI president Benedicto Yujuico said the calibrated importation of pork should be done “until such time that the spread of the ASF is curbed and local hog raisers can safely return to their industry.”

    “The risk of contamination and spread of the virus is really high because there is no available vaccine yet for ASF.  A calibrated importation program is an option government can consider to secure supply and bring down the price of pork,” Yujuico said.

    The importation, PCCI said, should be made in tandem with measures against those who manipulate the supply and price of agricultural products and the stepped-up  transport of pork, chicken, and vegetables from the Visayas and Mindanao to Metro Manila and to Kadiwa outlets and, the provision of subsidy for the logistical cost of supplying pork and chicken in Metro Manila.

    But Yujuico said for the long-term, the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the government’s economic team should continue to strengthen local production through more accessible financing and technology and infrastructure support, including additional cold storage facilities for the agriculture sector.