By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto questioned on Wednesday the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) plan to increase the volume of the country’s poultry imports.
Recto criticized the reported advice of the DA’s Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) to “limit” local poultry production while it maintained that there is no need to suspend importation.
He cited recent projections from the agency that chicken supply in the Philippines will be sufficient for the demand despite the impacts of the community quarantine implemented by the government amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
During its May 21 report to the Senate, the DA said that chicken supply will last for a minimum of 160 days and a maximum of 314 days. Self-sufficiency level was estimated to be 136 percent at the minimum, while 183 percent at most.
“If such is the case, why encourage imports? Kung 136 percent hanggang 183 percent ang chicken sufficiency forecast, bakit mag-aangkat pa (If the chicken sufficiency forecast was at 136 percent to 183 percent, why do we have to import)?” Recto asked.
“And why should an agency whose sole mandate is to boost food production advise Filipino chicken raisers to scale down their output to give market space for dressed chicken coming from abroad?” he added.
“Kung ikaw ang coach ng national poultry team, at ang ganda ng produksyon nila sa kalagitnaan ng krisis (If you are the coach of the national poultry team, and they have enough production amid the crisis), why would you order them to resort to point-shaving?” he continued.
The senator, in his statement, said encouraging imports is “not a way to honor sacrifices of local chicken growers”.
Recto said the DA should not be making “counterintuitive suggestions” when the agricultural production should be increased “in order to put affordable food on the table of Filipinos who have lost jobs”.
“The farm sector is the economy’s savior and safety net, and a job generator amidst massive layoffs. The only way for the food industry to absorb the unemployed is for it to increase and not decrease its yield,” he said.
Before this, stakeholders from the broiler industry had called on the DA to temporarily suspend the importation of poultry products due to the depressed price of chicken during the COVID-19 lockdown, which dragged prices down even below P70 per kilo.
But the BAI, they said, was quick to thumb down the proposal, telling them that poultry imports are too “minimal” to hurt Filipino producers, and to “self-regulate and limit production” instead.
The groups expressed their concern in an open letter to DA Secretary William Dar, on Tuesday, June 9.