A reader’s take on hog import relaxation

BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa (The Philippine Star) - April 20, 2021 - 12:00am

Public interest must be served by providing adequate supply of basic needs, like food at affordable cost even if it means importing. The 70,000 hog raisers’ demand has to be tempered so that millions of our countrymen can benefit from low priced pork.

That said, here are excerpts of a letter sent by Raymond Tumao, one of our avid readers.

“Let me go straight to the point and show the people the true colors of the senators hearing the case brought by the hog raisers. Just whom are these senators helping? Is it the hog raiser, the government or the people?

“In the opening salvo of a former congressman, who heads an association of hog raisers, what they wanted was only to increase the amount given by the government to cull their infected stocks, and they agreed to increase the MAV, but disagreed on the tariff reduction on the hog imports…. They claim that the decrease in tariff might even reduce the amount the government pays for every hog culled.

“NEDA’s explanation … shows purely it is doing its job well in a democratic government we have, which is beneficial to the masses. When the senators started talking, I immediately noticed … they are favoring the 70,000 hog growers instead of the 92 million people who are now suffering from the pandemic and the reduction of buying power.

“No wonder the poor remain poor and the semi-poor are getting poorer too. When the African swine fever (ASF) arrived at our local piggeries, the price of pork went up because many pigs were culled and transport fees went up.

“I have been buying in wet and supermarkets for my family of six since the early ‘80s and I have seen the movement of meat cuts and types of meat that are being sold. The increase in prices is normally caused by feed price movement, shipping cost, and the secretive middlemen profits.

“In 2019, a few months prior to the pandemic, I was buying kasim for only P168/kg and liempo for P185/kg. When it went up to P300/kg, I decided to refrain from eating pork and instead bought chicken, which at that time (was) at P90/kg. We all need protein from meat and so does the poor.

“I used to buy fresh meat in wet markets in Hong Kong when I was still importing auto parts and machinery. Meat sold in Hong Kong was usually sourced from nearby piggeries just across the border in the New Territories, and mind you, their prices are at least 30 percent lower than our ‘per kg sabit-ulo’ price. Sabit-ulo is the price of a pig carcass delivered to the market for the seller to cut up into several portions, each tagged with its corresponding prices….

“Being an importer since 1987, and my father an importer of foodstuff in Ongpin in the ‘70s and ‘80s, I would like to share a way to solve all these problems….

“First, check the source of meat of the importers. Check the retail prices of carcasses or choice cuts being sold in the country of origin. Compare the prices with our local counterparts and you will notice the price difference.

“I have always wondered why in a developing country like Vietnam, food is cheaper than those sold in our cheapest markets. Rice is so much cheaper in Thailand than in our country, where we even boast of an efficient rice granary. We should have the same prices of meat, unless it is specialty meats like Kurobota or the Japanese pot bellies.

“Second, import the meat and use the tariff collected from the specific produce as classified under the harmonized code. Beware of misdeclaration in the entries filed by the importers as some cuts are declared as offal instead of choice cuts just to save on the base value where the duty is computed.

“Factor in the brokerage fee, trucking and delivery fees, including the incidental expenses like the spot-checking of meat or wildlife until it reaches the cold storage facilities.

“At this point, the importer and the dealer should be able to determine their profit margin and they just have to allow a margin for a little profit for the local dealers to avail of the import scheme and sell imported meat while restocking their farms.

“This third part is tricky because this will disclose the reality of what the Department of Agriculture really up to. The tariff for imported feeds should be reduced temporarily to one percent and the collection of VAT suspended.

“Our local raisers should look for other feed component that is endemic to avoid the entry of diseases through the feed mixing process. This applies too to the restocking of brood sows and gilts.

“I wish the local hog industry could come up with a right mixture of decisions to benefit not just the poor, but also the ‘not so poor.’ The politicians are already made in life and they really do not care if the pork becomes more expensive, but they should realize that Pinoys are pork lovers and now is the time to ease their deprivation from pork by reducing the price of pork to a level that will make everyone in the food chain contented.”

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Should you wish to share any insights, write me at Link Edge, 25th Floor, 139 Corporate Center, Valero Street, Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City. Or e-mail me at reydgamboa@yahoo.com. For a compilation of previous articles, visit www.BizlinksPhilippines.net.

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