SUCCESSFUL MEAT ANTI-SMUGGLING DRIVE DELIGHTS FARMERS BUT PUSHES PRICES UP

Mindanao live weight price at P115/kilo

By Manny Piñol

The intensified campaign against meat smuggling implemented by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) and the Bureau of Customs has delighted farmers but worried consumers who are complaining of very high prices of pork in the market.


Live weight prices for hogs are up from a very low P80 to P85 per kilo previously to a high P115 in the Davao Region and P130 per kilo in Luzon.

This has resulted in the increase of pork prices in the market to at least P200 per kilo in the Davao Region to as high as P250 per kilo in Metro Markets.

On Wednesday, in Talavera, Nueva Ecija, President Rody Duterte personally instructed me to look into the complaints of consumers following a sudden increase in the prices of pork in the market.

On Friday night and at noon yesterday, Saturday, I met with the hog raisers from the Davao and SOCSKSARGEN Regions in Davao City to assess the problem and come up with measures to ease up the rising prices.

"The successful anti-smuggling campaign has resulted in a temporary gap in the supply compared to the demand in the market and this has pushed prices up," Estoy Estrada, president of the Davao Region Hog Raisers told me during the two meetings i had with the group Friday night and at noon Saturday.

"The industry was caught flat-footed because we did not expect the campaign to be this successful. But this is a problem that we would rather face than be swamped with smuggled meat in the market," said Dr. Emil Escobillo of the SOCSKSARGEN Hog Raisers.

Late last year, the Department instituted reforms in the issuances of clearances for meat importation called the Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary Permits to check technical smuggling and the use of spurious documents to bring in meat into the country.

During the review, it was found out that many dubious firms were given authority to import meat when they are neither processors nor end users.

The practice of misdeclaring good meat as offals was also checked after Senate Agriculture Committee Chairperson Cynthia Villar noted the discrepancy in the volume of offals and good meat brought into the country as recorded by the international monitoring bodies compared to what was declared in the Bureau of Customs.

Smugglers misdeclared Good Meat as Offals, which are used in meat processing, thus avoiding a higher tariff rate paying only 5%, instead of 35%.

The misdeclared Good Meat in turn is delivered to groceries and the meat market at a very low price virtually killing the local hog industry.

In the twin meetings I held with the hog raisers group, the following measures were agreed upon:

1. For Mindanao hog raisers, they will set a cap of P115 per kilo for live weight;

2. The "harvesting" of the current stocks of hogs in the farms will be delayed for at least 7 to 10 days to generate an additional weight of between 8 to 10 kilos.

This would mean that instead of slaughtering the hogs when these are about 90 to 100 kilos in weight, the hog raisers will allow them to grow to 110 and 120 kilos.

With an estimated production of about 1.5-million heads in the two regions alone, the scheme is expected to increase meat production by at least 15-million kilos more.

3. Mindanao hog raisers also agreed to consider the shipment of frozen meat from the two regions to Metro Manila to address the lack of supply in the market and lower the prices.

4. The Dept. of Agriculture and Fisheries will encourage backyard raisers, who gave up on raising hogs because of very low prices in the past, to get involved in the industry again.

5. The country's corn farmers will be brought into the equation to ensure a steady supply of corn for local feed manufacturing to address the very high prices of commercial feeds.

On April 19, I will meet with the National Hog Raisers Federation in Manila to further thresh out the problems and come up with solutions on a national scope.

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