Despite a 12-month tariff cut imposed on pork, a group of local meat importers began lobbying for a much longer period wherein the pork import tariff rate is kept at 15 percent from the original 40 percent until 2025.
In a letter to Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Meat Importers and Traders Association (MITA) President Jesus Cham said the compromise pork import tariff rate of 15 percent is “reasonable” but it should “be incorporated into the upcoming tariff schedule and remain in effect until end-2025.”
Citing the projection of the local hog sector, which was badly hit by the African Swine Fever (ASF), Cham said it will take two to seven years before local hog production can bounce back.
Thus, he said, it may take time for prices to ease and that the entry of more pork imports will be beneficial to consumers.
To recall, there is now a government order to temporarily cut the import tariff for fresh, chilled, or frozen pork.
Issued in April, the Executive Order (EO) 128 reduced the pork import tariff rate under the minimum access volume (MAV) to 5 percent from 30 percent during the first three months of the order’s implementation.
The MAV tariff rate will be increased to 10 percent in the next nine months, and will return to 30 percent towards the end of the EO’s implementation.
For pork imports outside MAV, the tariff rate will be cut to 15 percent from 40 percent for the first three months of the EO’s implementation. The rate will be raised to 20 percent in the next nine months before it will return to 40 percent after a year.
Cham argued that “the Philippines has a large backyard industry that has not progressed significantly despite decades of tariff protection”.
“Bio-security is practically non-existent because the producers have under-invested and lack the necessary training,” Cham said.
“From the onset, the hog sector was in denial and intent on pushing a protectionist agenda to keep out imports. They kept assuring the country and DA that there were ample pork supplies. It was only in January this year that the hog sector 'fessed up and faced up to reality,” he added.
MITA’s letter was also forwarded to DA, Department of Finance, Department of Trade and Industry, National Economic and Development Authority, among others.
Nicanor Briones, vice president of Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines Inc. (ProPork), said for his part that MITA’s proposal will further damage the local hog sector, especially small backyard raisers, which already incurred billions of losses due to ASF.
He also said that importers already earn at least P115 per kilogram (/kg) with the current tariff.
“Who will suffer from this? This will see the permanent closure of piggeries in the country. How are we going to come back from this? We don’t see any hope,” Briones further said.
Aside from the reduction in tariff, Duterte also backed DA for its proposal to increase the MAV allocation for pork imports this year by 350,000 metric tons (MT). This still needs Congress approval.
The DA made this proposal, as well as the proposal to bring down tariff on pork imports, in hopes to bring in more imported pork in order to bring down the retail price of the commodity, which has been going up since the latter part of 2020.
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).