By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan pleads with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to declare a state of calamity now to help hog-raises recover from the devastating effects of African swine fever (ASF) and not allow pork imports to flood the market.
In a statement, Pangilinan made the appeal as Metro Manila and some of its neighboring provinces go into another lockdown that can put more pressure on food supply.
“The President was probably misinformed by his advisers. This act of raising the MAV (minimum access volume, or cap on imports) will further weaken our local pork producers,” Pangilinan said.
The former food security secretary’s statement came after President Rodrigo Duterte asked Congress to increase the cap on pork imports purchased under lower tariffs to address a supply problem after millions of local pigs have been culled due to ASF.
“In behalf of our local hog-raisers, we are asking for a declaration of a state of a calamity so that funds for indemnification and additional cash assistance may immediately be tapped for them,” Pangilinan said.
On March 15, senators adopted Pangilinan’s Senate Resolution No. 676 which urges the Department of Agriculture (DA) to “recommend to the President to declare a state of national calamity” due to the “severe impact” of the ASF on the hog industry.
The resolution noted that the declaration would trigger the use of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund and Quick Response Fund to supplement the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) efforts to contain and manage ASF. For 2021, it is estimated that 8 billion pesos are needed to do this.
Senate hearings on rising pork prices also revealed that importers already earn off the current cap on pork imports.
“There is no need to expand MAV and/or lower the tariff rates. If we want to import pork, our present system allows importers to import pork,” Pangilinan said.
As per data from the Senate hearings, current international price for choice pork cuts like belly (liempo), ham (pigue), and shoulder (kasim) average at 2 dollars per kilo, he said.
“That’s 98 pesos per kilo. Add tariff of 40 percent, that’s 138 pesos per kilo. Add 12 pesos and that’s 150 pesos per kilo landed cost for importers,” Pangilinan said.
“At 250 pesos kilo at retail, importers already earn a lot. There is no need to expand the MAV. As you can see, imported pork is still very competitive than the local price. Any importer can import using the out-quota tariff of 40 percent. There is no quantitative restriction,” he added.
Senators also noted in the hearings that a small group of importers already amass billions in earnings due to the government policy of importation rather than helping local hog-raisers overcome ASF to supply the local market.
“There’s a small group that’s earning billions while consumers go hungry and the local hog industry is battered,” Pangilinan said. (AI/MTVN)