MANILA— Pork imports can augment supply while the country grapples with the African Swine Fever, but the local hog industry needs government support while repopulating, an agriculture economics specialist said Tuesday.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier reduced pork import tariffs as the government seeks to address the supply shortage due to ASF.
“Support to the producers, yes I think that is lacking, and that should be improved by the Department of Agriculture. They will also need resources so I think they should be going back to Congress and asking for additional resources to spend, especially on repopulating," Foundation for Economic Freedom fellow Ramon Clarete told ABS-CBN News.
"If we can produce it, then we will produce it. It’s just right now, we have maybe 40 to 50 percent reduction expected from this ASF. We just need to take care first of our consumers, needs for food, while our local industries repopulate," he added.
Clarete said the government must improve sanitary and phytosanitary border controls and to also speed up efforts in containing the disease, which entered the country in August 2019.
"The virus was just too fast, and they were too slow in arresting the spread of it. But that is still for me, my own opinion, they could do better. I mean the coordination of the DA agencies and local governments in enforcing measures to contain the spread, that is an area that needs a lot of improvement."
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier imposed a price cap on pork and chicken meat products in the National Capital Region. But to make it more effective, violators should be jailed, Clarete said.
Despite the reduction in pork tariffs, the Philippines won't likely receive a large amount of frozen pork as many other countries have also been hit by the disease, Clarete said.
To store the influx of imports, the country needs to add some 300,000 tons of additional capacity, he said. Aside from storage, the government must also ensure that meat products are handled and distributed properly to avoid contamination, he added.
Philippine inflation has been breaching the upper end of the government's 2- to 4-percent target range in recent months due to the rising prices of food products, especially pork.
Inflation was at 4.5 percent in March, slightly slower from the 4.7 percent in February.
The ASF continues to threaten the Philippine swine industry, estimated to be valued at P260 billion, according to the Agriculture Department.