By Macon Araneta

President Rodrigo Duterte issued an executive order (EO) that imposes a 60-day price ceiling on pork and chicken products in Metro Manila.

Under EO number. 124, the price ceiling for a kilogram of kasim and pigue is at PHP270, PHP300 per kilogram for liempo, and PHP160 per kilogram for dressed chicken.

Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go said the imposition of price ceiling seeks to ease the adverse impact of COVID-19 and ensure that pork and chicken remain affordable and accessible to the public and prevent unwarranted price manipulation.

Under the EO, the price ceiling will remain in full force and effect for 60 days, unless extended by the President upon the recommendation of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Meanwhile, the Office of the Executive Secretary said that the price ceiling will not result in undue diminution of meat traders’ expected income considering that the reduction rates are not greater than 25 percent of the prevailing market price. Notably, the break-even point for selling pork is only around PHP105.00.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the reduced local pork output due to the outbreak of the African Swine Fever (ASF) have significantly affected the supply and prices of pork and chicken in various parts of the country. 

In order to control the outbreak of ASF, the Department of Agriculture implemented: (1) provision of financial assistance to hog raisers affected by the ASF; (2) depopulation of affected hogs; (3) surveillance activities and border control; (4) heightened implementation of the Bantay ASF sa Barangay (BABAY ASF) program; and (5) stakeholder engagement and consultation.  

According to former Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization and Sen. Francis Pangilinan, the rising price of pork is due to the ASF, causing low supply, while the prices of fruits, vegetables, and other crops have been affected by the successive typhoons that struck the country in the last quarter of 2020.

Meanwhile, Sen. Imee Marcos warned that importation may kill the  local pork industry faster than ASF as she asked the DA to hasten  its probe of the hoarding of pork products.

Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on Economic Affairs,  said  hoarding may be causing an artificial hike in market prices amid the spread of ASF, particularly in Luzon.

She called on the government to prevent pork importers from taking over local market supply and pushing Filipino producers out of business.

Prices of pork imports from the United States, Canada, Spain, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Brazil suggest excessive profits were being made at the expense of Filipino consumers.

She cited that the import cost of a 40-foot container of frozen pork belly (liempo) from Spain was PHP117.87 per kilo, including a 40 percent tariff.

“Compare that to its market price of as much as PHP450 per kilo. Even if you add cold chain, storage and outlet delivery costs, the meat importer’s costs would only amount to about PHP153 per kilo.”

Besides arresting hoarders and profiteers, Marcos said the government can also bring down meat prices by subsidizing the cost of transporting pork products to Luzon, which imports about 80 percent of its supply from the Visayas and Mindanao.

The end of business for local hog raisers, she said,  will begin if the DA executes its plan to raise the minimum access volume of pork imports by as much as three times the present 54,000 metric tons.

Furthermore, Marcos pointed out that the DA got the single biggest item for emergency and stimulus funding under Bayanihan 2, amounting to PHP24 billion.

“DA’s spending must be investigated, as well as the failure of the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) to implement its suggested retail prices,” Marcos said.