Demand for chicken down, but imports up

Published August 30, 2021, 7:00 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

Demand for chicken in the country has gone down, but this is not the only thing causing problems for local poultry raisers. The volume of imported chicken has also spiked from January to May this year.

United Broilers Raisers Association (UBRA) Chairman Gregorio San Diego Jr. said that the country’s demand for chicken has gone down further amid stricter lockdown measures in the National Capital Region (NCR) and other areas in the country.

According to him, this has made it harder for local producers to recover from the lingering impacts of strict lockdown restrictions implemented last year and the high volume of chicken imports that continuously enter the country.

“Filipinos have run out of money, but the government’s attention is still with the supply. Their focus should shift to the demand. If there’s low demand [and you keep on allowing importation in hopes of bringing down the prices], then you have to deal with a surplus,” said San Diego, who also serves as the chairman of the Philippine Egg Board Association.

“You keep on allowing the importation of pork and chicken to bring down their cost, but that is not going to happen. Sellers in the markets have been experiencing a decline in demand for chicken, and in order to survive, they will coat the price in a way that they will still make money. Supply and demand is not the issue in terms of the prices,” he added.

Data from Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) data showed that from January to May, the Philippine government issued Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance (SPS-IC) enough to cover 401.83 million kilograms of chicken, which is 83 percent higher compared to the SPS-IC issued during the same period last year, which covered 219.4 million kilograms of chicken.

In total, the Philippines issued SPS-IC for 504.84 million kilograms of chicken for the entire 2020.

In June, the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) here in Manila (Post) released a data, showing that for this year, broiler production will only grow only by 2 percent, and it will only accelerate further in 2022 as economic restrictions are loosened.

Last year, broiler production dropped 10 percent due to the extended lockdown restrictions.

This, while total chicken meat imports surged by 18.32 percent to 402.7 million kilograms last year, from the 340.332 million kg that entered the country in 2019. Most of this, or around 68 percent, were mechanically deboned meat (MDM) of chicken, BAI data showed.

To be specific, Chicken MDM imports went up by 10 percent to 273.814 million kg from 219.061 million kg in 2019.

San Diego fears that if the surge in importation continues, a lot of poultry raisers will be forced to cut their production further.

“It is the import policy of the DA [Department of Agriculture] that is killing us,” San Diego said. “We are really losing money”.

As of August 25, farm-gate prices of chicken have gone down to as low as P67 per kilogram (/kg), which is way lower than the production cost of P80 to P85/kg, said San Diego.

This, while the prevailing retail price of a kilogram of fully dressed chicken stood at P160 per kilogram, based on the price monitoring report of DA.

“The government is not doing anything when the farm-gate price is low, but when it goes up a little, they will address it by importing. We are on our own,” San Diego said.

“The solution to our problem is not a business solution. It is political. There is no hope about this government who thinks importation is the answer to everything,” he added.

Nevertheless, and while he thinks Agriculture Secretary William Dar will no longer do anything about this issue, San Diego still pointed out that the suspension of importation in poultry would have solved a lot of problems in the industry.