By Madelaine Miraflor
The Philippines will have a steady flow of pork imports until the latter part of the year, while it is expected to cut down on poultry imports as farm-gate prices of locally produced chicken and other poultry products dipped in the second quarter of the year.
Based on its latest Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report, US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) here in Manila (known as the Post) is forecasting a recovery on pork imports during the second half of this year after falling by 40 percent from January to May.
This is to augment the local supply, which is expected to go down by 15 percent as African-Swine-Fever (ASF) policies continue to limit the movement of pork and live animals while commercial farms remain cautious about their restocking programs.
To be specific, the country is expected to import 250,000 metric tons (MT) of pork this year, which is 13 percent higher year-on-year.
This was after pork imports fell by 40 percent from January to May primarily due to congestion at the Port of Manila because of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions as well as the lack of cold storage space.
High global pork prices have also been recorded during this period, while the demand from the Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional (HRI) sector also went down due to the pandemic.
Right now, about half of pork imports goes to meat processing, 30 percent to food retail, and about 20 percent to food service.
Many products used by meat processors, such as fats, rind/skins, certain offals, and variety meats are not yet readily available from local producers as current industry practice is to sell live hogs to traders who slaughter and sell the whole carcass to the retail markets.
Meanwhile, due to low farm gate prices in the second quarter of 2020, the Post is now seeing lower imports moving forward.
“Due to record low farm gate prices in Q2 caused by the COVID-19 quarantine restrictions and temporary closure of food outlets, chicken production is still seen to grow this year but at a slower pace,” the Post said.
“Imports have also been adjusted downward to reflect the drop in overall demand,” it added.
The Philippines is now expected to import 350,000 MT of chicken, down 4.37 percent year-on-year, while the country’s local chicken meat production is seen to go up by 3.44 percent to 1.5 million.
From January to May, the country’s chicken meat imports increased 50 percent from the previous year.
About 65 to 70 percent of this is composed of mechanically deboned meat (MDM) of chicken used for meat processing and is not widely produced locally.
The meat processing industry, which has been growing by an average of 10 to 15 percent per year, sources about 85 percent of its raw materials from abroad.
There is now a call from various local agriculture groups for the Philippine government to suspend the importation of several agriculture products.
Last week, Nicanor Briones, Vice President for Luzon Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines, made a direct appeal to President Duterte to address the over-importation of pork, poultry, vegetables, and fisheries products.
He also made some suggestions how the government could help local producers recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Briones, who also serves as president of the Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines, said the national government should make sure that the tariff collected from the importation of agriculture products, not just rice, will be received by the farmers under the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF).
He also suggested the distribution of a monthly food subsidy worth at least ₱500 per family, which they could use to buy locally produced agriculture products.
Briones made the statement as Presidential spokesman Harry Roque suggested the importation of more pork products in order to bring down the cost of the commodity.