Meat importers rush frozen pork order while cheaper tariffs still hold


Local meat importers are rushing to book orders of as much as 600,000 metric tons of frozen pork from abroad for the next three months to take advantage of cheaper tariffs enforced by Malacañang, an industry group said Wednesday.

This was as President Rodrigo Duterte asked lawmakers to give the tariff cut a chance to bring down prices of pork, and said he is willing to recall the order once the local supply of meat returns to normal, the Palace said yesterday.

Jet Ambalada, director of the Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc., said Duterte’s Executive Order 128 and another EO to be issued soon will allow up to 400,000 metric tons of frozen meat to be shipped to the country subject to a 5% duty — a bargain compared to the previous 30% rate.

Additional shipments will be charged 15% of the declared cargo value, down from 40%, a rate that is in place for three months starting April 7 per EO 128.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the order subjecting over 350,000 MT of imported meat to the cheapest duties will be “issued soon.”

“Right now, my friends in the industry are all rushing to apply to import pork,” Ambalada told a webinar organized by the British Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (BritCham).

“I think there will be a large bulk of importation taking advantage of EO 128. Depending on what happens in the economy, we believe that it can even go higher than 400,000, it may even reach 600,000 metric tons this year on total importation under what we call the MAV (minimum access volume),” he said.

Meat producers in the United Kingdom are among those interested to supply pork to the country, according to BritCham chairman Chris Nelson.

Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said: “The President is asking the esteemed members of the Senate to give Executive Order No. 128 a chance and consider its intended effects, which include addressing the shortage in swine meat, stabilizing the price of pork meat, and minimizing inflation rate, as mentioned by the Department of Agriculture and the President’s economic team.”

He said that the issuance of EO 128 aims to address the shortage in pork, stabilize the price of pork products, and minimize the inflation rate.

Roque said the President appealed to the senators to wait for at least two months to see the impact of EO 128 in the local hog industry.

The senators earlier adopted a resolution asking the President to recall the order lowering pork tariffs amid concerns it would harm local hog raisers.

“Let us revisit the EO in two months to assess whether the aforesaid intended effects have been realized or met,” Roque said.

He also assured the senators that the government is committed to protecting the welfare of the hog industry as well as consumers.

“We are one with the Senate in ensuring the recovery of the local swine industry and the attainment of sufficient domestic pork production,” he said.

Under EO 128 signed by Duterte on April 7, tariffs on pork imports within the minimum access volume (MAV) were reduced from the current rate of 30 percent to 5 percent for the first three months upon the effectivity of the order, and 10 percent for the next nine months.

Senator Francis Pangilinan said instead of just appealing to the Senate to give the EO a chance, the Palace should hold a dialogue with them and listen to the hog raisers so they can get a better idea on the Senate position.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said if the senators had been consulted, they could have given them their input based on their own consultations and research.

For example, Lacson said the National Economic and Development Authority’s conclusion that demand for pork has not changed in spite of the pandemic is flawed.

“As I had pointed out during the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing, the 50 percent contraction registered by the hotel and restaurant operations should easily affect demand since the pre-pandemic 8.2 million foreign tourists are now eating pork somewhere else outside the country,” Lacson said.

Due to this, Lacson noted that at the estimated per capita consumption of 15 kilograms of pork, this would mean a 120-million-kilo reduction in demand.

He said this should be substantial enough to consider when they came up with the 350 million kilograms in additional in-quota minimum access volume (MAV) allocation.

Lacson added that the Palace appeal might as well be directed at the 80,000 backyard hog raisers, their families, farm hands and others who are hurt by the EO.

Meanwhile, the Land Bank of the Philippines said it is raising its available lending window in support of local pork producers and feed millers from P15 billion to P30 billion, to finance stock repopulation and feed milling operations of stakeholders reeling from the adverse impact of the African Swine Fever (ASF).

LandBank doubled its financing offer following the directive from Finance Secretary and LandBank chairman Carlos Dominguez III to intensify support for hog raisers, feed millers, and other industry players dealing with supply shortfalls and retail price spirals of pork products.

The funds will be available under the LandBank SWINE (Special Window and Interim Support to Nurture Hog Enterprises) Lending Program for commercial hog raisers registered as cooperatives or farmers’ associations, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and large enterprises or corporations.

LandBank, in partnership with the Department of Agriculture (DA), launched the lending program in March 2021. The bank said it is already processing six loan applications from the provinces of Tarlac, Cavite, Rizal, Bukidnon, and South Cotabato, amounting to P2.96 billion in combined loan applications.

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