Price ceiling on pork to be lifted

THE Department of Agriculture will implement suggested retail prices (SRP) for imported pork products on April 9. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

Revin Mikhael D. Ochave, Reporter

PRICE CAPS for selected pork and chicken products will not be extended, the Agriculture department said.

“April 8 will be the last day for the existing price cap and there will be no extension,” Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said at a virtual briefing on Wednesday, referring to the 60-day price ceiling mandated by Executive Order (EO) No. 124.

Instead, Mr. Dar said the Department of Agriculture (DA) will implement suggested retail prices (SRP) for imported pork products as part of the ongoing effort to augment supply and stabilize market prices. There will be no new issued SRP for local pork products.

Starting April 9, the SRP for imported pork shoulder (kasim) will be set at P270 per kilogram, while imported pork belly (liempo) will be at P350 per kilogram, he said.

“The DA and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will implement the SRP for imported pork and have agreed on the compliance for existing guidelines on hygienic handling of imported pork as prescribed by government guidelines such as proper packaging and labeling, and creation of a compliance monitoring team,” Mr. Dar said.

“We will also bring the help of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and other stakeholders,” he added.

Under EO 124, the price of pork kasim was capped at P270 per kilogram, pork liempo at P300 per kilogram, and whole chicken at P160 per kilogram.

Together with the new SRP for imported pork, the DA will require importers to package pork kasim and pork liempo into saleable packages of 500 grams and one kilogram.

Meanwhile, Mr. Dar encouraged local hog raisers to deliver surplus hogs from areas free from African Swine Fever (ASF) to Metro Manila, adding that transport assistance will still be given even beyond Thursday.

“This will be pursued until the higher minimum access volume (MAV) allocation for pork and lower pork tariffs are approved,” Mr. Dar said.

Mr. Dar said the imported pork will be distributed in groceries, supermarkets, and retailers in Metro Manila that have freezers and chillers.

He added that the DA and Metro Manila local government units will provide a grant for retailers that do not have the necessary equipment to store imported frozen pork.

Mr. Dar said the main issue remains the lack of local pork supply, which can only be addressed by the increase in MAV quota allocation, lower pork tariffs, and delivery of hogs from provinces with surplus supply.

On March 26, President Rodrigo R. Duterte sent a letter to Congress that endorsed to increase the MAV allocation by 350,000 metric tons (MT) in order to augment the DA’s projected supply deficit of 400,000 MT for the year due to ASF. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are in recess and will resume session on May 17.

The allocation for MAV pork imports is currently at 54,000 MT.

Mr. Dar said that if there is no action taken by the two chambers of Congress, the next step would be for Mr. Duterte to issue an executive order to increase MAV allocation.

MAV is applicable to farm commodities that can be imported at lower tariffs under the World Trade Organization (WTO) system.

Currently, pork imports within MAV quota are charged with 30% tariff while those outside the quota pay 40%.

To recall, the DA also has a pending proposal to lower pork tariffs for in-quota imports at 5%-10%, and out-quota imports to 15%-20%.

Sought for industry comment, Meat Importers and Traders Association (MITA) President Jesus C. Cham said in a mobile phone message that it is not good for the DA to set an SRP for imported pork products.

“Capping imported pork price only makes local pork less competitive and consumers will go to imported pork. Without a reduction in tariff, imported pork supply will not be able to affect the market meaningfully,” Mr. Cham said.

Rosendo O. So, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) chairman, said in a mobile phone message that the DA’s decision to set an SRP for imported pork products poses food safety risk and public health concerns for consumers amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“This action will not make pork more affordable for our countrymen, and it further cripples a hog industry that is already suffering from the DA’s mismanagement of the ASF outbreak,” Mr. So said.

“The pork shortfall can be imported at the current tariff level and MAV allocation without any additional burden to importers, as the current tariff rates already provide profits of P200 to P250 per kilogram for importers,” he added.