MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has allowed additional pork imports to boost its supply and curb its escalating prices, his aide said on Thursday.
In a meeting on Wednesday, the agriculture department reported that a kilo of pork was around P132 in one region, and as high as P244 in another region, said Cabinet Secretary Carlo Nograles.
The agency estimated that with a demand of 1.6 million metric tons, the Philippines needs to review its minimum access volume (MAV), which refers to the quantity of an agricultural product that may be imported with a lower tariff, he said.
The current MAV is at around 54,000 metric tons, and the agriculture department has recommended its expansion "just enough to cover the projected shortfall for the year," Nograles said.
Duterte approved this proposal, along with the creation of a sub-task group on economic intelligence "to go after smugglers, profiteers, and hoarders of agricultural products," he told reporters in an online briefing.
"Kung meron mga grupo o negosyante na pinagsasamantalahan ang pandemya para pagkakitaan ang taongbayan, hindi po ito palalampasin," Nograles said.
(If there are groups or traders who are taking advantage of the pandemic to profit off the public, they will not be condoned.)
The current pork deficit is around 400,000 metric tons, said the President's spokesman Harry Roque.
Filipino hog raisers shell out around P170 to produce a kilo of pork. Meanwhile, imported pork like boneless sirloin only costs P114 per kilo, inclusive of 40 percent tariff, he said.
"Anong mangyayari d'yan? Baka tuluyang mawala na ang local producers. Kaya nga po nag-iingat tayo pagdating doon sa kung ilan ang aangkatin from abroad," Roque said in a separate press briefing.
(What will happen there? Local producers might just quit. That is why we are careful with how much we will import from abroad.)
"Ang ating priority e mag-angkat muna tayo galing sa Visayas at Mindanao," he added.
(Our priority is to source first from Visayas and Mindanao.)
The agriculture department earlier said it was mulling tripling pork imports to boost the local supply.
African swine fever, often blamed for low pork supplies, has forced the culling of thousands of hogs. While it causes hemorrhagic fever in pigs that almost always ends in death, it cannot be transmitted to humans and other animals.
Pork accounts for 60 percent of meat consumption in the Philippines, where the swine industry is valued at P260 billion, according to the Department of Agriculture.
The price of pork was among the factors that drove inflation to a 22-month high in December, according to the state statistics bureau, and prices of pork products are unlikely to come down anytime soon.