Low pork prices take effect Monday

Published February 7, 2021, 10:00 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The new price ceiling on pork and chicken within Metro Manila is set to take effect on Feb. 8, to help arrest the rising cost of these farm commodities, amid opposition from industry, consumer and retailer groups.

( Manila Bulletin / File / Keith Bacongco)

For one, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) Chairperson Rosendo So thinks the new price ceiling is too low that market vendors in Metro Manila will lose money if they continue to buy and sell pork.

President Duterte recently signed Executive Order 124 setting a 60-day
price ceiling on pork and chicken within Metro Manila, with a price cap of P270 per kilogram (/kg) for pork kasim, P300/kg for pork liempo, and P160/kg for whole dressed chicken.

The EO will take effect February 8. The order was supposed to take effect last week but the Department of Agriculture (DA) decided to implement a grace period to give industry players time to adjust.

The DA is coordinating with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, and local chief executives to enforce the EO.

So, in a text exchange on Saturday, said the price ceiling for pork is “too low” and unless the government will subsidize the transport cost of the
supply, a lot of industry players will lose money.

He added that some viajeros, who are mostly traders that make a living from buying commodities straight from the farm and bringing them to markets within the city, are no longer interested to bring in the supply to the National Capital Region (NCR).

“They can’t afford to sell at a loss with the current price ceiling rates,” So said. “They can but if the price is set at ₱350/kg to ₱400/kg.”

As of Friday, the prevailing price of pork kasim in select markets in Metro Manila stood at ₱350/kg, while pork liempo costs ₱380/kg.

₱30/kg transport subsidy

Supply and price pressure on pork is being largely attributed to the persistence of African Swine Fever (ASF), a fatal animal disease among swine.

So far, ASF already resulted in the death and culling of more than 500,000 hogs in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

The proposal of SINAG is for the DA to subsidize the transport cost of pork from Visayas and Mindanao.

While Visayas and Mindanao both have cases of ASF already, these regions are not as badly affected by the virus as Luzon.

“DA should give support of at least ₱30/kg in transport. This can bring down the retail cost of pork by ₱40 to ₱45/kg,” So said.

The word on the street is that DA is already planning to offer a subsidy of ₱21/kg in transport cost but no concrete plan has been made yet.

Meanwhile, United Broiler Raisers Association (UBRA) President Bong Inciong also thinks that the new price ceiling on chicken is too low, and may “not actually solve anything.”

Right now, the price of a kilo of fully dressed chicken averages at ₱180/kg to ₱200/kg, and Inciong believes government should just leave it alone since the current price of day-old chicks, which are raised to become broilers, is now at an all-time high of ₱50 apiece.

“We will finally find out the extent of the supply problem in chicken if prices will remain this way,” Inciong said in a separate phone interview.

“In January, 2019, when there is still no demand pressure from hog, the price of a day-old chick is just P16. It gets lower depending on the situation. In early 2020, it rose to ₱20. Because of COVID-19 and lockdown restrictions, the supply increased and the price went down to ₱14 apiece. When the industry started culling [due to oversupply] the price went up to ₱20 by October, ₱29 by November, and ₱48 by end of January,” Inciong added.

To recall, when ASF started to pull down the hog supply sometime last year, the government appealed to consumers to instead eat chicken as their alternative protein source.

The call came when the poultry industry was experiencing a supply glut amid the lockdown since most of their production normally goes to industry customers such as restaurants and hotels.

At the time, the industry appealed to DA to temporarily stop the importation of poultry, a request that was not granted.

As a result, Inciong said a lot of poultry raisers decided to leave the business and decided to shift to other livelihoods such as egg production.

“The situation is serious for us,” Inciong said. “We have never experienced anything like this.” Right now, there is also a growing criticism of DA for the latter’s proposal to reduce the import tariff on pork and rice.

In a separate appeal, the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) asked the DA to stop further cutting tariffs on pork and instead focus on hog vaccination against ASF and increase the budget for the livestock