This time, it’s real pork that is at issue


    ‘We wonder how the pundits at the DA and the Palace did their computations…’

    WE used to often refer to “pork” as the largesse variety. Pork barrel — that item in the national budget that builds various kinds of infrastructure and other projects, and also lines the pockets of lawmakers and contractors. This time around, it is real pork that we are talking about, the kind with garlic and pepper that makes delicious adobo.

    Almost every one in government is worried and agog to tackle the problem of lack of pork in the market, which the Department of Agriculture (DA) has blamed on the extensive damage to the hog industry inflicted by the African swine fever and the series of typhoons that hit the country last year.

    The lack of supply and the increasing demand for the pig’s meat prodded President Duterte to impose palliative measures such as loosening importation and setting price ceilings. Malacañang has directed a price ceiling on select pork and chicken products in Metro Manila for 60 days to prevent further spike in prices. Pork prices in the National Capital Region have increased in the past few months due to tight supply arising from the impact of the swine fever on the hog population.

    The President’s Executive Order No. 124 was issued to cap the prices of pork “pigue” (leg or ham cut) to P270 per kilo and pork “liempo” (belly) to P300 per kilo, while dressed chicken was capped at P160 per kilo. The order was issued because a kilo of pork was selling at over P400.

    We wonder how the pundits at the DA and the Palace did their computations, but the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) right away affirmed that vendors simply cannot sell within the price ceiling, since the prices are too close to the production cost or farm gate price.

    As expected by the stakeholders, this knee-jerk issuance from the Palace was met with opposition from meat sellers in the market, including those who would like to follow Duterte’s order but could not shoulder the losses that this would entail.

    Protests were aired by the more politically inclined vendors, pointing out the flawed policies and late actions taken by the DA to prevent the problem from getting out of hand. Now, even the Department of Trade and Industry, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police are getting on board to help solve the problem of pork, which now is being blamed on profiteers, hoarders and price manipulators.

    Presidential spox Harry Roque said the government would sustain measures to boost supply and stabilize the cost of pork products in the country. He said it will be easy to apprehend pork hoarders when the country’s law enforcers inspect the limited cold storage facilities in the country, and that Carlito Galvez has the list of these cold chain facilities which the NBI can utilize.

    Sen. Imee Marcos correctly pointed out that with unbridled importation, pork will compete with COVID-19 vaccines for cold storage space in the country’s limited cold chain facilities, and the problem is compounded twice over. We dare to add that this just shows where the government’s expertise lies.