Groups oppose hiked volume and lower tariff for imported pork

Several agriculture lobby groups jointly appealed for President Rodrigo Duterte to withdraw his recommendation to increase the Minimum Access Volume (MAV) for pork by 350,000 metric tons (MT) as this may cause further damage to the local hog industry.

The groups also asked Duterte to shelve another proposal of the Department of Agriculture (DA) which is to bring down the tariff on pork imports.

MB FILE photo. (Jansen Romero)

"ASF has caused serious harm, Mr. President, but the proposals of the DA are fatal blows that could slowly kill the hog industry. Double dead po ang sektor namin pagnatuloy ang mga proposals na ito, Mr. President [our sector will end up double dead if DA's proposals are approved," groups said.

It was back in March when Duterte, upon the proposal of the DA,  recommended to Congress the increase in the MAV for pork by 350,000 MT, in addition to the current MAV of 54,210 MT for the year 2021.

Pork imports falling within the MAV are levied a lower tariff of 30 percent compared to pork imports outside the quota, which is slapped with 40 percent tariff.

Aside from this proposal, the DA also proposed to reduce the in-quota tariff from 30 percent to 5 percent for the first six months and 10 percent for the succeeding six months, and out quota tariff from 40 percent to 15 percent for the first six months and 20 percent for the succeeding six months.  

"We write in desperation to you, Mr. President, in the hope that you will hear the plea of the local agriculture industry– a sector that has been ravaged by both the Asian Swine Flu (ASF) outbreak and the COVID-19 pandemic," the groups said.

"Neither of these proposals are necessary, nor are they beneficial to consumers and the local hog industry, Mr. President," they added.

Some of the groups that signed the appeal are the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG), Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines, Inc., National Federation of Hog Farmers, Inc., United Broiler Raisers Association, Philippine Egg Board Association, Philippine Association of Feed Millers Inc., Philippine Maize Federation Inc., among others.

They pointed out that increasing the MAV to 400 million kilos of pork is equivalent to eight million pig heads, and is way above the current inventory of local backyard hog raisers at 6.9 million heads.

"To address pork supply and price concerns, the pork shortfall can be imported at the current tariff level and MAV allocation without any additional burden to importers, as the current tariff rates already provide profits of 200 to 250 pesos per kilo for importers," the groups said.  

"There is no need to incentivize them further; increasing the MAV and lowering tariffs serve to only increase the profits of importers at the expense of Filipino consumers who will not benefit from lower pork prices," they added.

Instead of expanding the MAV allocation and reducing tariffs, the groups said the President should direct the DA to fully implement Republic Act 10611, which will mandate the testing of all pork and meat imports at the port of first entry, and help contain both the ASF and COVID-19 viruses.

The appeal came after the House of Representatives, led by House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, also wrote an appeal to Duterte to reconsider his MAV recommendation.

"The members of the Committees are one with the livestock sector in expressing its opposition to the volume being requested by DA, as industry data and data provided by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) only showed a shortage of 150,275 metric tons," the appeal reads.  

"Allowing importation beyond the shortage and with a lower tariff will cause oversupply not only in Luzon, but also in the Visayas and Mindanao where there is ample supply of pork," it further said.