This week national government, in what we feel is a correct step, is mulling granting a 50 percent insurance subsidy for commercial hog raisers to further boost the pork supply in the country.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles told a virtual news conference earlier in the week the proposal was lobbed during a Cabinet meeting presided over by President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday.
From what Nograles said, the subsidy would be sourced from the Department of Agriculture’s Quick Response Fund.
His words, “One proposal being studied is an insurance subsidy of 50 percent for commercial hog raisers that utilize the quick response fund under the QRF of the Department of Agriculture. This is just one initiative being considered to help our hog farmers increase supply.”
Following the adverse impact of African swine fever on the swine industry, Senator Francis Pangilinan on Feb. 19 called on the government to provide insurance to hog raisers.
In January, Agriculture Secretary William Dar himself urged backyard and commercial hog raisers to avail themselves of insurance packages to help them recover from the effects of ASF.
The DA’s Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation, the sole government agricultural insurance firm in the country, included ASF among the risks covered by its livestock insurance as early as 2019.
It grants insurance amounting to P10,000 per head of swine, on a premium payment of only 2.25 percent or P225, according to the statement posted by DA on its official website.
On the other hand, small backyard hog raisers listed in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture are given free insurance.
The insurance coverage is on top of the P5,000 worth of ASF indemnification claim for eligible beneficiaries.
It is heartening to note the government continues to undertake measures to address the low supply and rising prices of pork products in the country, especially in Metro Manila.
Last month, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases approved the designation of special hog lanes to ensure the unhampered shipment of pork products from Luzon.
We also note that Senator Risa Hontiveros has secured the commitment of the Department of Agriculture that it will consider recommending the revocation of a controversial price ceiling on pork and chicken products, as the agency agreed to explore better means to address rising food costs in the country.
During the recent Senate probe on the sharp rise in food prices across the country, Secretary Dar and other agriculture officials confirmed they would study recommending to Malacañang the withdrawal of Executive Order 124, which imposed a 60-day price ceiling on pork and chicken products.
“We welcome the DA’s decision to closely review these price caps to see if they are helping consumers and vendors as intended,” Hontiveros had said.
The price caps have been criticized by market vendors, farmers, economists and lawmakers for being unfeasible, as higher transportation costs for pork and chicken supplies make the mandated prices too low to be tenable. Instead of helping consumers, she said, the move has forced some vendors and traders to close their stalls to consumers altogether.
We agree with Hontiveros the DA should look into more feasible and effective approaches to bringing down food prices and increasing food supplies in the country, such as expanding the number of hog raisers and suppliers covered by the insurance program of the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation.
We also welcome the directive of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to the Bureau of Customs to keep a tighter watch over the possible misdeclaration or misclassification of pork shipments entering the country by importers attempting to dodge the correct payment of tariffs on these products amid the current supply shortfall and retail price spiral.
Dominguez issued the order after President Duterte approved in principle during the Cabinet meeting on Feb. 3 the recommendation of the Department of Agriculture to expand the minimum access volume allocation for pork imports.
The Tariff Commission has submitted its recommendation on increasing the MAV to the President, according to the DA.
Aimed at boosting pork imports, the DA said the expansion of the MAV will help offset soaring pork prices amid the outbreak of the ASF in the country, which has significantly reduced the pork output of local producers and jacked up market prices.
“Please take a close look at the potential smuggling of pork,” Dominguez told Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero during a recent DOF executive committee meeting. (AI/MTVN)