ARGUING that the move would further discourage local pig repopulation, hog raisers are seeking a “justification” from the government of its decision allowing the sale of imported pork under the minimum access volume plus (MAV+) program beyond NCR+ areas.
Meat processors, meanwhile, pointed out that the latest action of the government to address elevated pork prices would be “futile” since imported pork is still barred from being sold in wet markets without proper refrigeration.
Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar earlier issued Memorandum Circular (MC) 23 lifting the restriction on the sale of pork imports under the MAV+ program, allowing importers and traders to sell their stocks to areas outside the NCR plus, which have “relatively high prices” of pork meat.
Justify the lifting
THE National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc. (NFHFI) wants the Department of Agriculture (DA) to provide a detailed explanation on why they allowed the sale of imported pork under the MAV+ beyond NCR+ areas.
In particular, the NFHFI President Chester Warren Y. Tan said the DA must identify the areas outside NCR+ that have “relatively” high pork prices and prove this is so.
Tan lamented that the provision stipulated in MC 23, expanding the market coverage of imports under pork MAV+, is too subjective.
Under MC 23, importers of pork under the MAV+ can now distribute in areas outside of NCR+ “with relatively high prices of pork meat.”
Tan argued that the industry was “caught unaware” of the issuance of MC 23, noting that the DA did not consult concerned stakeholders.
Government and industry sources also told the BusinessMirror that the MAV Advisory Council was not consulted about the possible changes in the pork MAV+ rules.
“They have to justify who came up with that idea and how they can say that there is relative high prices of pork meat outside NCR plus. Where exactly are areas with relatively high prices of pork meat? That cannot be arbitrary” he told the BusinessMirror.
“And even before this memorandum, areas and regions outside NCR, such as in Visayas and Mindanao, are already flooded with imported pork that were brought in outside the MAV,” he added.
“But with this memorandum, which legally and technically allows open sale of pork under MAV+, local producers will not benefit,” Tan added.
No supply gap
CITING industry figures, Tan said there is no pork supply gap in areas outside NCR+ as farm-gate prices have already plunged to as low as P160 per kilogram from a high of P240 per kilogram due to oversupply in the market.
“Inflation is not caused by pork prices since they have stabilized these past months but yet, Secretary Dar is using this as excuse once again to supply MAV plus to entire country except four regions, which is contrary to their pledges during the Senate hearings compromise,” he said.
“We are very disappointed with the directions of this current DA and no matter what their press pronouncements like priority programs to repopulate the industry, their actions will further discourage swine farmers ,especially our 70 percent backyard farmers to raise pigs again,” he added.
Dar amended the guidelines to facilitate the “full utilization” of the pork MAV+ following the “very low” utilization of the pork MAV+ “due to the very strict market restrictions and distribution,” which defeated the objectives of the import program.
Agriculture officials earlier said only about 37,000 MT of the 200,000-MT pork MAV+ has arrived in the country. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2021/ 10/26/government-lifts-curbs-on-mav-pork-imports-sale-outside-ncr/)
‘Exercise in futility’
THE Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (Pampi) said MC 23 is an “exercise in futility” and is not enough to address the “unabated high prices of pork” as flagged by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) recently.
“The high prices of meat products which the government has miserably failed to address is due to dysfunctional policies of the department of agriculture which misled economic managers in the executive department,” the group said in a statement on Wednesday.
Pampi’s remarks stem from the decade-old rule of government that imported frozen pork cannot be sold in wet market unless vendors have correct refrigeration system to properly store, handled and display these meat products.
“The DA had recommended the expansion of MAV and reduction of pork tariffs without notifying other governmentt agencies that the imported pork cannot be sold in wet markets unless they are displayed in freezers and kept at a temperature of -18 degrees Celsius,” it said.
“Stall owners in wet markets do not have freezers. They barely have enough capital to pay for daily deliveries of fresh pork. So how can they sell imported pork even if they are priced cheaper?” it added.
Given this situation, importers and traders of imported frozen pork cannot transfer their inventories from cold storages directly to the wet markets, especially since the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) “threatened” to confiscate the food items in violation of food safety rules, the group claimed.
“Pampi had previously recommended that to bring pork prices down, DA should temporarily suspend the implementation of a controversial policy which bans the sale of frozen meat products in wet markets under DA AO #6 issued in 2012,” it said.
“Furthermore, there is no logic in banning the sale of frozen meat but allowing imported frozen galunggong to be sold in wet markets,” it added. DA Administrative Order (AO) 6, Series of 2012 provides the guidelines on the “hygienic” handling of chilled, frozen and thawed meat in meat markets.
Under AO 6, chilled meat products sold to market should not be frozen and shall maintain a temperature not higher than 10 degrees Celsius, while frozen meat should be stored, held and sold at a temperature not higher than zero degrees Celsius and should be stored in a meat cold storage at less than -18°C. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2018/04/21/phls-stiff-meat-trade-rule-stays/)
Because DA is cognizant of the problem with imported meat being sold in wet markets, the department planned to bankroll a P45-million program to distribute chest freezers and chillers to Metro Manila wet markets. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2021/07/08/da-giving-out-%E2%82%A745-million-freezers-to-markets/)