Price ceiling on chicken, pork deferred to February 8

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star
Price ceiling on chicken, pork deferred to February 8
A vendor prepares pork that are ready for selling at a stall in Commonwealth Market in Quezon City. President Rodrigo Duterte has signed EO No. 124 that imposes a 60 day price ceiling on pork and chicken products in Metro Manila. The executive order aims to curb the skyrocketing cost of pork and chicken products.
Boy Santos, file

MANILA, Philippines — The government has moved to Feb. 8 the implementation of President Duterte’s directive setting a 60-day price ceiling on pork and chicken products in Metro Manila, to give hog industry players and other stakeholders a grace period.

At a Congress hearing yesterday, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said Executive Order 124 will take effect on Monday.

EO 124 sets a mandated price cap of P270 per kilo for kasim or pork shoulder, P300 for liempo or pork belly and P160 for a kilo of chicken as prices of these commodities continue to soar.

“The price ceiling will be enforced on Feb. 8 by all institutions involved,” Dar said. “It is already effective. We are just giving industry players time to adjust.”

As an alter ego of the President, Dar has some leeway on how the price caps will be implemented.

He said the Department of Agriculture (DA) would coordinate with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and local chief executives to enforce the President’s order.

Agriculture Assistant Secretary Kristine Evangelista said the grace period would allow vendors to sell their stocks, which were bought at higher prices prior to the EO.

“If we immediately bring down prices, those who have existing inventory will not be able to recover their capital,” Evangelista said.

Based on the latest cost structure released by the DA, the farm gate price of pork is P200 per kilo. The amount will increase along the line as fees on logistics, transportation, freight, slaughter cost and market stall fees will be considered.

As a form of intervention to hog raisers to ensure that they can comply with the EO, Evangelista said the DA would shoulder the logistics and transport costs.

“We have seen where the bottlenecks are. Once we provide transport support, prices will eventually go down and retailers can follow the price ceiling,” she said.

Evangelista noted that the DA is also looking at the DTI’s suggestion to impose a price cap across the whole value chain, not just on retailers.

Price freeze bucked

National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc. president Chester Tan said the problem on the price ceiling would eventually boil down to producers.

“This does not encourage producers to expand their business. In the end, the long-term solution to repopulate may not happen. What we are seeing are band-aid solutions,” Tan said.

The United Broiler Raisers Association (Ubra) warned of the possibility of traders not selling their products in Metro Manila.

“Why would traders bring the pork to Metro Manila just to lose money because of the low price cap?” Ubra chairman Gregorio San Diego said.

“The transport subsidy is good if the government can really do it. But the DA is just pure promises. They have yet to pay most of the culled pigs due to ASF (African sswine fever) until now,” he said.

Consumers may have to brace for more expensive chicken meat by the middle of the year as raisers are discouraged to produce due to the government’s pro-importation stance and weak demand.

Ubra said a shortage is possible as prices of day old chicks have soared to P50 per piece from the average of P16 to P20.

Meanwhile, prices of fish commodities, especially galunggong or round scad are expected to stabilize in the coming weeks following the lifting of the fishing ban in Palawan.

The DILG ordered local government units (LGUs) in Metro Manila to ensure that the 60-day price cap on pork and chicken is strictly followed.

As the price ceiling is only effective within the National Capital Region, DILG officer-in-charge Undersecretary Bernardo Florece Jr. urged LGUs outside of Metro Manila to activate their Local Price Coordination Councils to ensure that prices of commodities are in check.

Senators said imposing a price cap on basic commodities may only have limited effect and could harm retailers and ordinary food vendors, who are at the end of the supply chain and have the lowest profit margins.

They said EO 124 that imposes a 60-day price freeze on pork and chicken should be complemented by efforts to boost supply and productivity in the agricultural sector and running after price manipulators and hoarders.

“I don’t think a price freeze will help when the problem is supply. It may exacerbate the problem,” Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said.

He said increasing supply and productivity of the agricultural sector should be a priority.

Recto and Sen. Imee Marcos, who chairs the Senate economic affairs committee, said market vendors would be at the losing end of the price cap.

“How can our market vendors in Metro Manila sell (pork) at P250 per kilo when traders are selling it to them at P320 per kilo?” Marcos said.

“The solution to inflated pork prices is neither unenforceable price ceilings nor importation. It is the direct and extensive government intervention to assist hog raisers,” she added.

According to Marcos, the DA should use its vehicles, personnel and assets to transport hogs to Metro Manila, especially from Visayas and Mindanao.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan prodded authorities to go after food price manipulators that the agriculture secretary exposed at a Senate hearing on Monday.

“An example must be made of these price manipulators. Under the Price Act, violators can be fined up to P1 million,” Pangilinan said in statement.

He said the DA should deputize the National Bureau of Investigation and Philippine National Police to go after price manipulators and hoarders.

Pangilinan noted that the price freeze during the emergency situation of the pandemic failed.

“If millions of tons of meat and poultry were imported, where are these? Let’s open cold storage facilities and find out if there’s hoarding,” he said.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros urged the government to go after profiteers who may be responsible for the rising prices of pork and chicken.

Aside from price freeze on pork and chicken, workers called for long term solutions to address the spiraling food prices.

The Partido ng Manggagawa said the government must also provide wage increase, cash aid and more jobs. — Paolo Romero, Emmanuel Tupas, Mayen Jaymalin, Cecille Suerte Felipe




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