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More pork imports at lower tariff await Duterte signature
During the Congress hearing yesterday, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the more than 400,000 metric tons of pork imports that would be imposed with lower tariffs are in its final stage.
Michael Varcas, file

More pork imports at lower tariff await Duterte signature

Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - February 17, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The proposal to import more pork at lower tariffs is awaiting the signature of President Duterte as supply and prices remain volatile due to the African swine fever (ASF).

During the Congress hearing yesterday, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the more than 400,000 metric tons of pork imports that would be imposed with lower tariffs are in its final stage.

“Last night (Monday), we submitted to Malacañang the resolution by the MAV (minimum access volume) Management Council recommending an increase for MAV for pork,” Dar said.

“It is now waiting for the President’s signature,” he added.

The MAV has been set at 404,210 MT as a shortfall of the commodity is expected for the rest of the year.

The 400,00 MT proposal is a large increase from the current 54,000 MT as the government is scrambling to boost supply and temper rising prices.

Projected pork supply for 2021 is at 1.22 million MT while demand is at 1.6 million, thus the 400,000-MT deficit.

“Even with our repopulation efforts and all the activities that we started, we will still have a potential shortage of about 400,000 MT. That’s why we are going to that level under the MAV Plus scheme,” Dar said.

Imports under MAV are only levied with a 30 percent tariff while those out-quota imports have a 40 percent tariff.

However, it should be noted that the DA is also pushing for a tariff cut for imports under both in-quota and out-quota to as low as five percent and 15 percent, respectively.

Magsasaka party-list Rep. Argel Cabatbat is wary of the effectiveness of having more pork imports.

“We are made to believe that once imports flood the market, prices will go down, just like what happened in rice. But prices did not really go down. We are afraid that this might be another permanent solution to the problem,” Cabatbat said.

“The DA is having a knee-jerk reaction because the problem really is that we decimated a lot of hogs due to ASF, that’s why prices are going up. And not because of hoarding or manipulation,” he said.

But Dar said having more imports at lower tariffs would allow traders and sellers to comply with the price ceiling.

“If we don’t lower the tariff, prices will be beyond the ceiling. Even if we have more imports but we don’t bring down tariffs, it will have no effect on the retail prices,” he said.

The Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines (ProPork) said the DA should encourage more production to create an environment wherein local producers will be willing to invest in the hog industry again.

“It should not just be an importation. Producers lost interest in hog production because they see that DA and its action are not in favor of them,“ ProPork president Edwin Chen said.

ProPork also reiterated its call to increase the price cap from P300 to P360 per kilo to the mandated P270 to P300 a kilo as provided under Executive Order 124.

More hogs

Meanwhile, live hogs from several regions in the country continue to arrive in Metro Manila to augment supply and stabilize prices.

To date, more than 38,000 live hogs and 150,167 kilos of carcass have been shipped to Metro Manila from ASF-free areas in Luzon, Mindanao and the Visayas.

An average of 4,000 hogs are arriving in Metro Manila from various regions.

The latest came from General Santos City and South Cotabato where 13 trucks carrying 1,350 hogs arrived at the Lucena Port in Quezon province.

The live hog shipments pass through a special hog lane to allow the unhampered transport and delivery to government-certified slaughterhouses and will be sold in Metro Manila markets.

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