Rich Filipinos were eating way less beef during the pandemic, resulting in significantly lower production nationwide, as the prolonged lockdowns forced restaurant to temporarily shutdown operations.
The latest Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Manila (Post) said the country’s demand for beef, which is generally considered a luxury in the Philippines due to high prices relative to income, has gone down during the pandemic.
“Local beef production has dropped significantly, with slaughter rates down by 21 percent and inventory up 1 percent,” Post said.
Farm gate and retail prices in the National Capital Region (NCR) for beef also remain high due to tight supply, even with the decline in demand from the closure of restaurants and other COVID-19 restrictions.
The Post report, however, said that beef production and imports may recover in 2021 as demand for beef improves on the back of restaurants increasing dine-in capacity and with the tourism sector beginning its recovery mode.
The Philippine cattle sector is categorized as being 94 percent backyard, which is composed of farms with fewer than 20 adult animals and fewer than 40 young animals.
From January to May, the Philippines saw a 1 percent increase in beef exports, supported by shipments for the meat processing sector.
“Traders are hoping for a strong fourth quarter when imports in the run-up to the holidays are typically high. FAS Manila sees 2020 imports reaching about the same level as 2019, or approximately 185,000 MT [metric tons] in Carcass Weight Equivalent (CWE),” Post said.
The report also forecasts of beef imports growing nearly 3 percent to 190,000 MT in 2021, driven by the Philippine economic recovery and reduced quarantine restriction.
In the same USDA report, the Philippines was expected to have less imports of rice, corn, and feeds for this year amid a mixture of several factors, including higher local production, rising global prices, and weak domestic demand.
Amid this forecast, Agriculture Secretary William Dar still expressed optimism over his “ambitious” 2 percent growth target for the agriculture sector for this year on the back of the expected higher farm output.
In the report, Post said the country’s rice imports for this year may only total to 2.6 million MT, which is 13 percent lower than its last forecast of 3.0 million MT.
In his previous speech, he said that “barring adverse typhoons and natural disasters in the remaining months of the year”, the Philippines will still achieve a record palay output this year of 20.34 million MT, which is 8 percent higher than the 2019 production.
As for Post, it sees the country’s milled rice production to go up by 6.3 percent to 11.7 million MT, reflecting of Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) recent bullish outlook on palay production and which is also about the same level as Dar’s target when converted into unhusked rice.
Meanwhile, Post’s forecast on corn imports in the market year 2020 to 2021 are also lowered to 375,000 MT from the current 600,000 MT, reflecting reduced demand from broilers.
Post also lowered its wheat imports forecast to 6.85 million MT, two percent below the current forecast, due to reduced hog demand for feed wheat and slower growth in the milling sector.