PH to decide on importation of tilapia, galunggong

Published October 2, 2020, 8:51 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The Philippine government may resort to importation anew to address a projected deficit in the supply of the country’s staple fishery products like tilapia and galunggong or round scad.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) already made a recommendation on such importation and that the final decision on this matter will be made next week.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar (MANILA BULLETIN)

Based on the current food supply outlook of the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Philippines will have a deficit of 42 days’ worth of consumption by year-end in terms of fishery supply. Hence, the need to import.

The outlook indicates that around 400,000 MT supplemental fish imports could boost this supply up to two days’ worth of surplus by the end of the year.  

Without imports, the supply is estimated to be at 2.9 million MT, which is lower than the demand of 3.3 million MT.  

For round scad, for instance, the country’s supply is estimated at 53,925 MT, while the demand is at 105,690 MT, showing a deficit of 51,765 MT.

For tilapia, there will be a deficit of about 12,036 MT, having a supply of 102,624 MT versus a demand of 114,660 MT.

As for other fishery products, the DA sees a surplus in the production of milkfish, mackerel, and sardine.

If there’s a shortage in tilapia and galunggong, considered as the “poor man’s fish” for its affordability, there is now an abundance in the local supply of some high-value fishery products like tuna and crabs.

These products — considered high-value fisheries products because of their prices — are supposed to be exported to other countries but couldn’t go anywhere now because of COVID-19 travel restrictions. They are also normally served in restaurants. 

Because of that, Asis Perez, former director of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), advised Filipinos to tweak their fish consumption a bit and lean more on these high-value fishery products to make up for the lost export revenues.

On the part of the government, he said it should help local exporters identify the domestic markets where they can divert their products, especially now that it’s hard to export them to other countries.

“Some of our bigger tuna production, we normally bring that to Japan, but of course the Japan economy is also affected by the pandemic. It has a huge effect on exports,” Perez said.

“Then there’s the Philippines-Europe chain wherein we bring fisheries products to European countries by plane, but since flights are still irregular, as much 500 kilograms to 2 tons of fisheries products are affected,” he further said.

He then pointed out that these fisheries products can only be transferred by planes because they need to get to their destinations within 48 hours.

Perez, who also serves as the convenor of Tugon Kabuhayan, said compared to other staple food like bangus and tilapia, which can easily be taken up by the domestic market, the ‘high-end market’ for much expensive fishery products like tuna and salmon definitely declined.