PH pork shortage feared to last ‘til 2026

Published May 17, 2021, 6:30 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The current pork shortage in the country due to African Swine Fever (ASF) is feared to last until 2026, according to a meat traders’ group.  

In text exchanges, Meat Importers and Traders Association (MITA) President Jess Cham said they are now considering of requesting the government to modify Executive Order 128 and extend the temporary reduction in pork import tariff. EO 128, however, has yet to take effect.

“We were strongly suggesting that the reduction in tariff be implemented within the period of five years but this was not carried,” Cham said. “In the next few months, we will have to request for an extension again.”

A customer pays for pork at a roadside market stall in Mandaluyong City, Manila, the Philippines. (Bloomberg file)

The proposal to amend EO 128 and change its proposed pork import tariff rates is still with the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

Under such an amendment, the pork import tariff under minimum access volume (MAV) will now be adjusted from the current 30 percent to 10 percent, instead of the original proposal of 5 percent, for the first three months of EO 128’s implementation.

This will be adjusted to 15 percent, instead of 10 percent, in the remaining nine months of EO’s validity.

MAV refers to the volume of a specific agricultural product that is allowed to be imported with a lower tariff as committed by the Philippines to the World Trade Organization (WTO).  

For out-quota, the tariff will be reduced from the current 40 percent to only 20 percent, instead of the original proposal of 15 percent, for the first three months of the tariff cut implementation. Then it will be increased to 25 percent, instead of 20 percent, in the next remaining nine months.

The government’s economic team and the senate also agreed to make a compromise on the proposed higher MAV allocation on pork from the earlier proposal of 404,000 metric tons (MT) to 254,210 MT.

It was the Department of Agriculture (DA) that made these two proposals in hopes that bringing in more imported pork into the country will bring down the retail price of the commodity, which has been going up due to the tightness of hogs supply, a lingering impact of ASF.

DA Assistant Secretary for Strategic Communications Noel Reyes said the NEDA Board will soon convene and endorse the changes in the proposals to the Office of the President.

“Our discussions with the hog sector and hog practitioners show that if ASF disappeared today, it would take three years [for the domestic supply to stabilize]. Except that ASF is still spreading and we are still losing production capacity,” Cham said.

“We also heard from Russian expert [Global African Swine Fever Research Alliance (GARA) President Denis Kolbasov] that even after 10 years, Russia cannot eradicate ASF. Also, that their backyard hog industry has shrunk from 50 percent to 10 percent. So a pork shortage [in the Philippines] in the next five years is a realistic and reasonable scenario. The tariff reduction should reflect reality,” he added.

Cham then said that if EO 128 is only for one year, then “we will have to consider whether to extend it or not” in 2022. 

Last week, Business Bulletin reported that it will take two to three years for the local hog raisers – who already lost a combined amount of P68 billion due to ASF – to recover from the dreaded virus.

Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) Director Reildrin Morales said “total eradication of the disease” will take longer, mentioning how other countries like Spain took 30 years to fully get rid of the virus.

“Infrastructure is one of the major gaps,” Morales said. “We also don’t have a direct line of authority from national to local governments”.

ASF was first detected in the Philippines in 2019 and has since then resulted in the culling of 472,000 hogs.  From 2020 to the current period, the country’s total hog inventory likewise fell by 24 percent from 12.79 million to 9.71 million due to the dreaded animal virus, data from Philippine Statistics Authority showed.

As for the affected areas, ASF is now in 2,652 barangays across 12 regions in the Philippines, according to BAI Veterinarian Janice Garcia.