Palace urged to boost pork supply, not impose price controls

PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

THE GOVERNMENT should intervene to expand the supply of pork rather than impose price controls, Senator Francis N. Pangilinan said in a television interview Monday.

He said supply remains the major issue because of the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak, which has inflicted losses of P60 billion on the hog industry.

He said close to five million hogs have been culled to prevent the spread of ASF.

“Supply is really the problem here… you have to really cull in order to curb the spread,” Mr. Pangilinan said.

On March 8, the Department of Agriculture (DA) announced that the price ceiling on pork and chicken products sold in Metro Manila under Executive Order (EO) No. 124 will remain effective until April 8.

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The EO, issued on Feb. 1 but implemented a week later, capped the price of pork shoulder (kasim) at P270 per kilogram, pork belly (liempo) at P300 per kilogram, and whole chicken at P160 per kilogram.

Mr. Pangilinan said the expansion of pork imports to stabilize supply is “fine” as long as it is regulated and based on accurate data on market demand.

The DA has a pending proposal to lower the tariff of pork imports within the minimum access volume (MAV) quota to 5% for six months and to 10% for a subsequent six months.

Tariffs for out-of-quota pork imports were also proposed for lowering to 15% in the first six months and 20% in the next six months. Currently, pork imports within the MAV quota are charged a 30% tariff, while those beyond MAV pay 40%.

The DA also sought to increase the allocated volume of pork importers under the MAV quota to 404,210 metric tons (MT) from the current 54,000 MT.

According to Mr. Pangilinan, he is wary of “a flood of imports which will directly impact the already-struggling hog industry.”

Mr. Pangilinan said the declaration of a state of emergency can also help in addressing ASF outbreaks.

“We have P20 billion allocated for disaster relief in the national budget. Without a state of emergency declaration, the funds cannot be used to support the hog industry,” Mr. Pangilinan said.

“The DA needs P8.6 billion to address ASF. But they only have P2.6 billion. So the remaining P6 billion that needs to be raised can come from the calamity fund. We can address ASF. We are not helpless. But we have to act quickly and address the matter,” he added.

Mr. Pangilinan, along with other senators, recently urged the DA during a Senate committee hearing last week to submit a recommendation to Malacanang for the declaration of a national state of emergency that will allow the release of public funds to curb the spread of ASF.

During a virtual briefing Friday, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said the DA is set to submit its recommendation this week.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the national hog inventory as of Jan. 1 was down 24.1% year on year at 9.72 million animals. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

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