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Gov’t aid sought for farmers, traders

By: - Correspondent / @melvingasconINQ
/ 09:30 PM February 01, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Livestock producers on Tuesday called on the government to provide cash support to lower the cost to local farmers and cushion the impact of underproduction and stem the country’s rising cost of meat products.

In an online hearing, senators also called out the Department of Agriculture for its lack of a clear-cut program to ease the impact of African swine fever on local farmers, who have also complained about the deluge of imported meat products as the government tried to augment the plunging domestic swine production.

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“We ask that the P13 per kilo assistance for transport be implemented soonest to avert a looming shortage of pork products mainly for Metro Manila,” said Rosendo So, chair of the Samahan ng Industriya at Agrikultura (Sinag).

Cash aid to traders

He also said the DA should speed up its implementation of the P10,000 cash assistance to traders so that hog growers from the Visayas and Mindanao could stem the financial pinch and sustain the industry.

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Sen. Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate agriculture committee, said the government must find ways to bring down production costs for local swine producers to make their prices competitive with imported meat.

The senators expressed dismay over the government subsidy program’s poor implementation to farmers under the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act, which seeks to provide P10,000 assistance to affected farmers keeping 10 pigs and below.

Villar urged the DA to fast-track its implementation of the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act, amid a “dismal” performance of having provided aid to only 25 percent of its target beneficiaries.

She said she was baffled that the prices only rose this month when the perceived causes of the rising production costs began as early as September last year and despite the high demand in December because of the holidays.

“I believe this is just temporary, presumably caused by some sectors who want the government to make some policy actions. If we give in to this pressure, they could be laughing at us [in government] right now,” she said.

She said the DA must set up border facilities to check interisland shipment of meat. The agency aimed to augment the low supply of pork products in Luzon with those coming from Visayas and Mindanao.

Imported pork products

Nicanor Briones, vice president of the Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines Inc., blamed the “undervaluation” of imported pork products, which, he said, was making it hard for prices of locally produced meat to compete.

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Imported products are valued low as part of the traders’ attempt to skimp on import duties, and regulatory agencies are tolerating this, he said.

Briones also rejected data from the DA, which showed that imported pork products were priced as low as P72 a kilo, exclusive of tariffs and other costs as they are distributed in the local market.

“This is technical smuggling that has been going on for many years now and has not been addressed by our concerned agencies,” he said.

He denied allegations that local swine growers were resorting to hoarding of their meat products to control prices.

“Which right-minded grower will hoard their pork at this time of ASF? The truth is, many of us sell our hogs as soon as they reach 60 to 70 kilos—far from the desired weight of 100 kilos—because of the fear of ASF, aware that no help is coming from the government,” he said.

Shortage warning

But hog growers also warned of a worsening shortage of meat products in the country, as the government had not provided help to larger swine farms.

“Sadly, all the measures being put in place by the government right now, including the price freeze, lifting of tariffs for imported meat, are all adverse to us in the local meat industry,” Briones said.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan expressed disgust over Briones’ revelation on the continuing practice of undervaluation of imported meat products.

“This really continues to be prevalent and needs to stop. Our meat industry deserves a process that is free of undervaluation and technical smuggling because if this is not stopped, it will really kill our local meat industry,” he said.

He blamed the unabated smuggling of meat products for the entry of the ASF into the country, purportedly perpetrated by unscrupulous customs and animal quarantine personnel.

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TAGS: Department of Agriculture, farmers' subsidy, meat products
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