Suffering farmers need swift action
Our poultry raisers are suffering from too much unfair importation. This calls for government swift action.
In general, growing poultry domestically no longer makes sense. Under today’s conditions, one can actually lose money from production, while making large profit from importation. Many backyard poultry raisers have stopped operations.
During this pandemic, countries can no longer sell their produce at the same level because of the decreased demand. They therefore seek markets overseas which they can penetrate with their low subsidized prices.
Other countries acted swiftly. As early as July 2, Agri-Fisheries Alliance (AFA) informed the Office of the President and the Department of Agriculture (DA) that there were already 26 cases of import regulation by several countries filed at the World Trade Organization (WTO), while we had none. AFA also stated then that for March and April, poultry raisers lost 38 to 46 percent of their income.
Since then, things have gotten worse. It is acceptable if we suffer because it is our own fault. It is not. Both the WTO and our own law (Republic Act No. 8800) allow our government to take swift action to protect our citizens when international conditions change. Of course, the government can close its eyes and leave us to suffer.
In the case of cement importation, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) acted swiftly. It secured a safeguard that would temporarily increase the effective tariff protection rate so that we could still compete with imports. I know this very well, because I was deeply involved as the then president of the Cement Manufacturers Association of the Philippines. What is more praiseworthy is that the DTI acted using the allowed motu propio mode. This means the DTI itself took on the case so that it would be resolved more quickly because it had better information access than the private sector. Citizens expect and appreciate this kind of government proactive action when they are suffering.
On Nov. 19, AFA brought to the DA information that it may not have been aware of. AFA requested the DA to take motu propio action on two cases. If the DTI could do this for cement producers, why can the DA not do this for a sector that is much larger, with far less resources, and is suffering much more?
Note that the price of imported chicken leg quarter is much lower than ours (P74.06 vs. P170). With those prices, we cannot compete. The flood of imports has deprived us of tremendous sales and jobs.
The leg quarter includes both the drumstick and the thigh. For the imported leg quarter, the price (P74.06) is much less than either the drumstick (P127.12) or the thigh (P147.02) alone! This looks like an attempt to penetrate a foreign market at an unusually low and unfair price. Should this not get motu propio attention?
The second case is similar to the cement industry’s. For any industry, a safeguard can be implemented that increases the effective tariff protection temporarily. This is justified when there is a surge in imports that causes severe injury to the domestic industry.
For the poultry industry, here are the import surge numbers (expressed in thousand tons) for the last three completed years: 2017—244.1; 2018—288.2; 2019—340.3.
The damage to the poultry is obvious in terms of the thousands of jobs lost and the billions of pesos foregone.
This can be quickly documented by the DA using its motu propio capability. With these numbers, it can be clearly shown that imports have caused the injury. That is all you have to show so that the same safeguard the DTI got for the cement industry can also be secured by the DA for this sector.
Poultry producers are suffering tremendously, specially during this pandemic. They deserve swift action. Under the leadership of Agriculture Secretary William Dar, who may have learned of these details only recently, we believe he will take swift action to determine what can be done to stop the bleeding and possible demise of our poultry industry. INQThe author is Agriwatch chair, former secretary of Presidential Programs and Projects, and former undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture and Department of Trade and Industry. Contact is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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