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[box type=”default” size=”large”] Secretary Pinol’s decision to authorize importation questioned [/box]

MANILA — The country should not be desperately seeking imported pork despite reports that prices have gone up, with hog raisers saying the supply chain should be checked to find out the culprits for the anomaly.

In response to the supposed runaway increases in pork prices, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Pinol authorized the importation of pork on April 26 under the minimum access volume (MAV) scheme, hoping that his order would punish not only the so-called profiteers but also backyard raisers.

Pinol’s order was anchored on what he claimed to be the insincerity of hog raisers who had promised not to raise live weight prices of hogs, but Pro-Pork, an organization of hog raisers, stressed its members did not raise prices.

It turned out that Pinol met with Mindanao hog raisers, insiders said, and not with the key industry players in Luzon.

Moreover, Pinol did not consult with the hog raisers but only with his purported technical team, which readily confirmed what the secretary wanted to hear.

This immediately raised questions over the veracity of his claim that piggery owners are a bunch of profiteers who did not redeem their promise not to raise prices.

Has the Philippine market been sorely lacking pork so that its prices are skyrocketing?

If Pinol were to believe the reports from his own agencies, then it would appear the nation is literally swimming in pork, similar to what former National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Lito Banayo said that the country was swimming in rice because of importations.

Months later, more imports came in as the sea of rice became a desert.

As of April 3, 2017, the total inventory of imported pork in cold storage nationwide was 16,746.32 metric tons (MT) or 16,746,320 kilos.

On the other hand, only 770.70 MT of local pork were kept in cold storage.

Filipinos prefer warm meat than frozen pork, beef or chicken, and this explains why the domestic pork market is brisk and has less use of cold storage, the natural refuge of importers, meat processors and fast food chains dependent on meat products from the US, Canada, Denmark, France, Spain and Brazil.

These figures could not have been reduced substantially as more meat products are coming in from overseas with food processing companies still enjoying reduced duties for offal and other meat products at 5 percent.

The reduced tariff had been blamed for the deluge of meat imports that were misdeclared as mechanically deboned meat (MDM) when they were comprised of chicken leg quarters.

The “Inventory of Frozen Pork in Accredited Cold Storages” issued by the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) and signed by executive director Dr. Ernesto S. Gonzalez, deputy director Beata H. O. Obsioma and Dr. Ma. Elizabeth D. Callanta showed that meat products are in abundance and continue to be replenished.

The latest inventory is far bigger than the inventory on April 4, 2016, which said the total pork in cold storage was 10,980.75 MT, with only 725.20 MT coming from local sources.

As of the same date, the total volume of pork kept in cold storage in the National Capital Region (NCR) was 5,461.78 MT while Central Luzon, where meat processing plants operate, had 4,115.78 MT.

Region 4-A, or Calabarzon, where shipments of imported pork, chicken and other meat products are shipped in, had a bigger volume at 6,395.08 MT.

These volumes may actually be higher since the NMIS based its inventory on registered cold storage facilities.

Hog raisers have been getting hit for several years by smuggled pork and the entry of mechanically deboned meat (MDM), mostly chicken, that is assessed a duty of 5 percent and serves the needs of the meat processing industry for the manufacture of canned goods, hotdogs, and other products.

The decision of Secretary Pinol to import 7-million kilos of pork may be followed by yet another order to allow the importation of chicken that poultry industry players feared could cause a glut in the market and drive prices down.

Even if the chicken meat market has become segmented, broiler raisers said they could suffer losses with more imports coming in.

Fastfood chains like Jollibee, KFC and McDonald’s also have been importing chicken from the US, Canada and France, or raising them themselves, thus limiting the market for broiler raisers.

A livestock industry leader who spoke on condition of anonymity said the decision of Secretary Pinol to allow the importation of seven million kilos of pork (7,000 MT) “does not guarantee that the pork prices would be reduced substantially.”

Pinol justified his action by saying he wants to protect consumers from runaway pork prices, which he blamed on hog raisers. 

The livestock industry leader explained that growing hogs to 90 kilos and selling them off to the local market optimizes the profits of raisers and this explains the hesitation of many backyard and smaller piggeries to raise their animals to 130 kilos.

During the incumbency of former agriculture secretary Proceso Alcala, he urged members of Pro-Pork to wait until their hogs weigh 130 kilos before selling them.


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