Gov’t to bring in imported pork priced cheaper in supermarkets

The government has approved the importation of 388,740 metric tons (MT) of pork from foreign sources not affected by the African swine fever (ASF) to bridge the gap between supply and demand as the highly infectious disease has decimated local pig stocks.

Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said the DTI, Department of Agriculture and other concerned agencies will announce the final suggested retail price (SRP) for imported pork within the week.

“We expect that the price of imported pork will be lower than the SRP for local pork. We urged consumers to watch out for this lower-priced pork at supermarkets and groceries,” he said in a press briefing.

Both traders and hog raisers were allowed to bring in imported pork under the minimum access volume (MAV) plus carrying duties of 30 percent for in-quota and 40 percent for out-quota.

Based on the data from the Bureau of Customs, hog raisers estimated the landed cost of imported pork at P154 per kilo but frozen pork sold in groceries and supermarkets retails at P350 to P400 per kilo.

According to the DA, the estimated domestic supply was about 1.22 million tons while demand was higher at 1.6 million tons.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the private sector, particularly major supermarkets, offered to buy mobilized hogs from the provinces and do the culling on their own.

“We were assured that they will distribute the commodity to their network of supermarkets nationwide and will try to work around the SRP,” he said.

He mentioned that thousands of hogs will be transported from the Visayas and Mindanao, on a weekly basis, “but these will not suffice.”

Hog farmers revealed that pork farmgate prices range from P180 in Mindanao to P220 per kilo from farms in Luzon which is quite different from the prices gathered by the DA monitoring team that starts from as low as P144 per kilo from Mindanao to a high of P170 from Luzon.

To facilitate the movement of hogs and pork nationwide, the DA has made available transportation assistance of P10 to 21 pesos per kilo

Under the 60-day price cap measure approved by the President, local pork will have to comply with the suggested retail price ranging from P270 for pork kasim (shoulder) to P300 for pork liempo (belly).

An agricultural group, the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) on Tuesday said the DA may not be able to meet Metro Manila’s requirement for pork and chicken given the government’s low price ceiling. With Joel E. Zurbano and Jenniffer Austria

Rosendo So, SINAG president, said while Dar has already promised to address the meat shortage in the National Capital Region, SINAG believes the hog-raising and poultry industry in the Visayas and Mindanao as an alternative source of pork and chicken meat would refuse to sell their produce to Metro Manila, saying he sees no reason why they should unless there is a subsidy.

Dar on Tuesday rejected calls for his resignation, saying his agency has implemented several measures to address the soaring prices of pork products.

“That’s not fair. We are having mixed interventions to handle this concern on food prices,” he said in an interview on ANC.

The Department of Agriculture has allotted some P500 million for lending to backyard hog raisers. A special financing window amounting to P27 billion is also being offered to swine commercial raisers.

Dar also dismissed criticism he was slow in responding to the African swine fever that continues to ravage parts of the country.

“That’s not true. When I came in August 2019, the problem is already there. We continued to work with local government units every step of the way,” he said.

Close to 500,000 hogs have been culled as a result of ASF since the outbreak started.

He also denied favoring imports over supporting local producers.

In other developments:

* The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority said it is joining other government agencies to monitor the price of pork meat to ensure that the price ceiling will be implemented in public markets in the National Capital Region. On Tuesday, MMDA chairman Benjamin Abalos Jr. and officials of the Department of Agriculture and Department of Trade and Industry inspected the Mega Q Mart and Commonwealth Public Market, both in Quezon City, and SM Hypermarket in Mandaluyong City to monitor price cap among retailers.

* San Miguel Corporation (SMC) food unit San Miguel Foods (SMF) is looking to transfer its nationwide hog inventory and facilities to local raisers to allow them to supply the requirements of their respective regions and help strengthen biosecurity protocols among smallholder farmers. “We want to provide our local piggery businesses a chance to thrive in these trying times, and encourage more smallholder farmers to grow this industry locally and responsibly,” said San Miguel Corporation President and COO Ramon S. Ang.

* Senator Grace Poe urged the Executive Branch to provide another round of social amelioration to families amid rising food prices and the economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Families have been hit hard not once but twice. First it was the pandemic-induced lockdowns and economic burnout. Now they are hit by rising food prices. No matter how we look at it, another round of cash aid is really necessary,” Poe said.

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