However, the head of a local pork producers group said there is more than enough supply of pork meat, and lowering tariff rates will benefit only the importers and traders, and not the consumers, as the retail prices of pork meat in the market have remained high despite the entry of imports.
In a May 22 letter addressed to National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, the Meat Importers and Traders Association (Mita) asked the economic managers to consider lowering the tariff rates on pork meat and edible inner organs to five percent across the board.
The letter was signed by Mita president Sherwin Choi and president emeritus Jesus Cham.
The current tariff rates are 15 percent for in-quota imports and 25 percent for out-quota imports.
But Choi and Cham said once these temporary low tariff rates expire at the end of 2023, the rates might revert to the original rates of 30 percent for in-quota imports and 40 percent for out-quota imports.
Without an extension of the temporary low tariff rates, or the lowering of the rates to five percent, meat prices would rise, affecting the Filipino consumers, the importers said.
The group also pushed for the implementation of the lower tariff rates for another five years, saying this will allow the country’s hog industry to recover from impacts of the African swine fever (ASF) that was first detected in the country in 2019.
“We are now in the fourth year, and the (Department of Agriculture) has just forecast a pork shortage for the coming months. Clearly, the hog recovery is not going well. It is timely to now maintain a low tariff for the next five years,” Mita said.
Duterte to Marcos
In May 2021, President Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order (EO) 134 lowering the tariffs for in-quota pork imports to 10 percent for the first three months, and 15 percent in the next nine months, and out-quota imports to 20 percent for the first three months and 25 percent in the next nine months to ensure that pork products would remain available and affordable amid the continuing spread of ASF in the country.
Through EO 171 signed in May 2022, Duterte extended the 15 percent in-quota and 25 percent out-quota tariff rates for pork imports until the end of 2022.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. approved the extension of EO 171 until the end of 2023.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the total volume of imported pork in 2022 rose 62.7 percent to 804,780 metric tons, from 494,780 metric tons in 2021.
In 2022, the value of imported pork was US$1.56 billion, double the 2021 record of $780 million.
The volume of imported pork in 2020 was 179,669 metric tons, down from 286,502 metric tons in 2019.
Not beneficial to consumers
Jonathan Young, president of the Central Visayas Pork Producers Cooperative (Cevippco), told SunStar Cebu on Wednesday, May 24 that despite the entry of imported pork meat with lower tariff, not much had changed in the prices of pork meat in the market.
This was his reaction to the proposal of Mita.
The average price of pork meat in the public market remains at more than P300 per kilo, even amid the presence of imported pork in the market that was supposed to stabilize the price, he said.
He added that lower tariff rates benefit only the importers and traders as they will have a much lower cost of importing pork meat from other countries.
This policy has only affected the local hog farmers as imports competed with the local production of the hog industry in the country, Young said.
There were times when swine farmers were forced to sell their live hogs to distributors even at low farmgate prices due to the presence of imported meat in the market, the Cevippco official said.
Young said Cebu has a sufficient supply of live hogs and pork meat, and that the province is even exporting pork meat to other regions of the country.
As of March 31, 2023, the country’s total swine inventory was estimated at 10.18 million heads, 4.2 percent higher than the 9.77 million heads in the same period last year, the PSA reported last Wednesday.
“About 76.5 percent of the country’s swine population came from small-hold farms, while the remaining 22.3 percent and 1.2 percent were from commercial and semi-commercial farms, respectively,” PSA said.
Central Visayas was the second largest producer of swine with 1.13 million heads for the period.
Calabarzon had the highest swine population of 1.31 million heads, while Northern Mindanao had 1.09 million heads.
The PSA said these three regions accounted for 34.7 percent of the country’s total swine population during the period.
Last March, Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines Inc. president Rolando Tambago said that since 2019, the country had lost five million pigs after they were culled as part of the policy of the Department of Agriculture to manage ASF. (with CTL)