Meat price ceiling stays for another month

Catherine Talavera - The Philippine Star
Meat price ceiling stays for another month
Vendors of pork and chicken meat return to Murphy Market on Monday, March 8, 20201 in Cubao, Quezon City after conducting a holiday against government's price caps.
The STAR / Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — The price ceiling on pork and chicken in Metro Manila will be implemented for another month as the intervention helped tame prices, the chief of the Department of Agriculture (DA) said.

In a statement yesterday, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the price ceiling would remain until April 8 as prescribed under Executive Order 124. This EO, which took effect on Feb. 8, imposes a 60-day price ceiling in Metro Manila markets to limit the prices of pork shoulder or kasim to P270 per kilo, P300 for pork belly or liempo and P160 for chicken.

“Lifting it will undeniably result in a dramatic rise in prices of pork and chicken, given that the African swine fever (ASF) crisis is still raging and thus continues to impact on local production of hogs nationwide,” Dar said. “That is why we need to augment the current shortfall, estimated at 400,000 metric tons this year, from ASF-free countries.”

As the inflation rate again rose last month to 4.7 percent, Dar said the government must take all necessary measures to check inflationary pressure to protect low-income households, particularly the poor, who are hurt most because high inflation further fritters away the value of their already small income.

Meanwhile, Dar rejected the suggestion of hog raisers to raise the price ceiling, adding that it would be a redundant measure given that the actual average pork and chicken prices are higher than the ceiling imposed by EO 124.

The Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines (ProPork) earlier urged the government to raise the price ceiling of pork to around P330 to P360 per kilo as it will encourage hog raisers to resume production.

Also, economists from the University of the Philippines-Los Baños had urged the government to remove the price ceiling on pork, emphasizing that it will not address supply and cost issues in Metro Manila.

Dar said although the price ceiling may not ensure full compliance by traders and retailers, it is still an effective deterrent against unscrupulous trading activities.

Preliminary market monitors on Monday showed that the prices of kasim ranged between P300 to P340 a kilo, while liempo was priced at P340 to P360 a kilo.

Laban Konsyumer Inc. president Vic Dimagiba said the intervention is working to bring down prices below the anomalous P400 to P450 per kilo seen in the months of December 2020 and January 2021, although not the prescribed amount in the EO.

“The consumers, especially the bottom 30 percent of the household, either don’t buy or buy less pork, and that is desirable but alarming as the right of the consumers’ access to reasonable prices of basic necessity is slowly eroded by expensive pork products,” Dimagiba told The STAR.

He shared the same sentiment with Dar on retaining the present price ceiling until the end of the EO.

“We oppose adjusting price ceiling at higher amounts,” Dimagiba said.

He added that the DA should also study to expand price ceiling to include Central Luzon and Calabarzon provinces.

By maintaining the price ceiling, Dar said the government sends a strong signal to Filipino consumers, who suffer from lower incomes due to the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, that it does care about their welfare.

“Hog producers, wholesalers and retailers are no less expected to do their share in helping the country’s economic recovery effort,” he added.

Sought for comment on the implementation of the price ceiling for the month, Propork president Edwin Chen said everyone is the biggest loser, pointing out that some consumers are unable to buy pork due to pork holidays by vendors and traders.

“Every time DA did intervention without listening to its stakeholders it will result to more harm than benefit,” Chen claimed.

He emphasized that pork producers are always open to help the government meet challenges facing the industry.

Asked what further interventions the government can do to support the industry after the price ceiling expires next month, Chen said they are hoping that the government does not lower tariffs for pork imports to five percent, as it will do the industry further harm.

“In the past, DA intervention flooded the markets with imports,” Chen said, adding that a lot of producers as well as importers were at loss.

Last week, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua said the National Economic and Development Authority has submitted to President Duterte the proposal to cut tariff rates on pork imports.

Under the proposal, for in-quota or those within the minimum access volume (MAV), a five percent tariff is proposed for the first three months, which will be increased to 10 percent afterwards.

Current imports under MAV, at 54,000 metric tons, are slapped with a 30 percent tariff. For those outside MAV, a proposal of 15 percent tariff is initially eyed, before hiking to 20 percent.

At present, out-quota imports are levied at 40 percent. The proposal covers meat of swine, fresh, chilled or frozen.

Moreover, as part of its efforts to stabilize pork prices and supply in Metro Manila, the DA said hog deliveries from the provinces continue.

Latest data from its field operations service show that the total hog and carcass deliveries from various regions to Metro Manila, from Feb. 8 to March 7, 2021, have reached 127,868 heads and 823,673 kilos of carcass.

This translates to an average daily delivery of 4,567 heads and 28,417 kilos of carcass, which it said surpasses Metro Manila’s average daily requirement of 4,000 heads.

DA Assistant Secretary Arnel de Mesa said the number of hogs transported to Metro Manila has been stable.

He added that the hog and carcass deliveries to Metro Manila public markets peak every Wednesday, coming from regions Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Western Visayas, Soccsksargen and Northern Mindanao.




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