MANILA, Philippines — Even after the government allowed the importation of more pork products in a bid to curb inflation, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) admitted that meat prices remained high in most parts of the country.
Despite Executive Order Nos. 133 and 134 that cut tariffs on pork products and reduced the tariff rate, only four regions registered a single-digit meat inflation rate while the rest displayed meat inflation rates higher than the national average of 4.2 percent between January and August, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said.
The DA blamed this on the “global problem on transport and movement of imported goods due to the pandemic,” and the “very low utilization of the [tariff cuts] due to the very strict market restrictions and distribution.”
“[These factors] defeated the objectives of EO 133 … which are to address the supply gap in pork market, provide consumers with adequate and affordable meat, and lower inflation,” the DA said.
As a solution, Agriculture Secretary William Dar approved a new memorandum circular authorizing importers and traders to sell their imported products outside the National Capital Region (NCR) and cater to processors and institutional buyers.
The two EOs lowered imported pork tariffs on the condition that they would only be sold to wholesalers and retailers in the areas of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal, and would only take effect for 12 months.
The DA said the gridlock affected some 70 percent of the pork imports that were expected to arrive between July and October as transport time was stretched to 120 days from the usual 30 to 40 days.
Thus, the restrictions on selling points have forced importers to keep their imported products in cold storage in NCR, Central Luzon and Calabarzon.
But Jayson Cainglet, executive director of the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura, said the circular would be useless since the DA could not determine whether the pork products supposed to be in cold storage had not reached the countryside.
“Seven months into the issuance of the EO, even Neda admitted that pork prices remain high even with the flooding of pork imports and the low prices of local pork at the farm-gate,” Cainglet added.
On Oct. 25, the Neda estimated that the country’s pork supply would remain short by 278,600 metric tons by year-end.
As of Sept. 27, the Neda said, only 26.4 percent of the first tranche of import allotment under minimum access volume was used.
The Neda said the average stock of frozen pork in the first three weeks of September rose to 79,042 MT from 73,159 MT in August.
In addition to pork prices, the Neda also predicted a shortage in lowland vegetables, whose production of 1.3 million MT this year would account for 80 percent of local demand.