MANILA - Cargill Philippines said Thursday the holiday season could reinvigorate demand for poultry supply in the Philippines, an industry which was not spared by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cargill supplies chicken to the country's largest restaurant operator Jollibee Foods Corp with their joint venture C-Joy. It produces around 1 million chickens per month with a 45 million total annual capacity.
Dine-in operations in restaurants were shut in March, which resulted in lower demand and oversupply of poultry products. Prices also dropped to P30 from P70 per kilo, Cargill Philippines president Sonny Catacutan told reporters in a virtual briefing.
But like most industries, the poultry sector has seen signs of recovery since lockdowns were eased and restaurants started increasing capacity in June, he said.
The holiday season, where Filipino families usually gather and celebrate, is likely to ramp up demand, Cargill said.
“Right now the demand picked up. We can feel that. As we approach the holidays, we believe this trend will continue to improve. Chicken remains affordable and we have seen prices stabilize,” Catacutan said.
"We have room for growth for chicken and chicken is very promising," he added.
Cargill's poultry unit also pivoted into retail earlier this year. It sold ready-to-cook Jollibee Chickenjoy and it penetrated groceries and supermarkets to reach consumers who now prefer to eat at home.
The company also tapped digital means and other reseller programs to distribute its products, Cargill Philippines Corporate Affairs director Chris Ilagan said.
"A lot of them are consuming at home so we have to figure out how to get our quality products at home. We ventured into the social media space and offered our products online for people to buy," Ilagan said.
"We have seen dine-in and take out improve. We are cautiously optimistic that this trend will continue. As Christmas rush comes in, we’re hoping to benefit from that," he added.
Catacutan said Cargill would likely continue venturing into retail since it has seen "very encouraging" results.
African Swine Fever impact
Hog raisers were not as fortunate as poultry farmers due to the African Swine Fever (ASF) which resulted in supply shortage and higher prices of pork, Catacutan said.
Cargill has been implementing a program tested in Vietnam to help swine farmers repopulate their farms and increase swine immunity from the disease, he said.
Measures such as improving supply from ASF-free areas in the country and importation of pork from other countries could help stabilize supply in Metro Manila this holiday season, Catacutan said.
Despite the headwinds seen by the agriculture sector, Catacutan said the company remains committed to uphold food security in the country.
"As a business engaged in agriculture and food production, we are cognizant of our responsibility to keep the food supply chains going as an essential business," he said.
"We have kept our operations running across all our business units through the quarantine season, ano rin po kami (we are) frontliners in this fight against the pandemic," he added.
In fact the company remains committed to its P12.5 billion investment announced in 2018 earmarked for the next 5 years, Catacutan said.
Cargill Philippines has interests in poultry, swine, fisheries and feeds production as well as other agriculture-based businesses in the Philippines. It operates in 70 countries.