P100-M of smuggled food products from China, Germany seized

Published May 28, 2021, 4:31 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The Philippine government has seized P100-million worth of smuggled food products coming from countries such as China and Germany.

This is despite the country’s existing ban on pork and poultry products coming from China, and on imported pork coming from Germany.

Photo from the Department of Agriculture

On Thursday, the Sub Task Group on Economic Intelligence (STG-El) of the government’s Task Group on Food Security conducted an anti-smuggling operation in a vacant lot located along Guillermo Street, Brgy. San Rafael Village, Navotas City.

STG-El is composed of the DA, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and Philippine National Police (PNP).

The operation resulted in the seizure of 12 refrigerated container vans (reefer) containing assorted frozen pork, beef, jumbo shrimp, eel, black chicken, crawfish, peking duck, dori fish fillet, with an estimated value of P100 million.

Based on the markings on the boxes, the shipments came from Vietnam, China, Germany, and Belgium, according to the Department of Agriculture.

To recall, pork products coming from Germany is still not allowed to enter the Philippines after the European country reported its first case of African Swine Fever (ASF) in September last year, while it was only just in November last year when the DA lifted the import ban on pork coming from Belgium.

This, while an import ban has been in place on pork and poultry products coming from China to prevent the entry of animal diseases like ASF, Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), and bird flu, which have long been affecting the hog and poultry sectors of the world’s second-largest economy.

The seizure of the aforementioned smuggled products came at a time when there is a growing concern over the DA’s pro-importation stance and how this might result in the entry of animal diseases into the country.

To recall, there is now a plan for the government to cut import tariff as well as increase the minimum access volume (MAV) allocation on pork in order to bring down the meat prices in the country.

This is amid the decline in output of both livestock and poultry due to the prevalence of ASF and COVID-19 lockdown restrictions since last year. To recall, livestock posted a -23.2 percent decrease in production during the first quarter of this year amid the prevalence of ASF. It accounted for 14.2 percent of the total agricultural production.

Two-digit declines in production were particularly registered for hogs at -25.8 percent and cattle at -10.2 percent.

Poultry production also dropped by -7.4 percent. It contributed 13.3 percent to the total agricultural production in the first quarter of 2021.

Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) President Danilo V. Fausto earlier said that during the period, the decline in both hog and poultry was aggravated by the lack of incentives for producers despite the prevalence of ASF and the government’s decision to allow the entry of more imported pork into the country as part of the measures to bring down meat prices.

“Focusing on the consumer side rather than on production is the wrong policy which will hurt our agriculture sector over the long run,” Fausto said.

Then there’s also the unsystematic control of ASF by the government and unclear biosecurity measures being implemented by DA, including the first border control for imported meat, Fausto added.

“Local production will not be able to compete because of the high cost of inputs compared to the subsidized inputs of imported meat from their country of origin. [This is] aggravated by the lowering of tariff that further widened the margins of meat importers,” Fausto said.

“It is also anticipated that unless price control measures are implemented to imported meat, the importer will surely take advantage of the margins from the very low landed cost of imported meat and will not likely to pass on the low imported prices of pork to the consumers,” he added.