Price freeze on pork, poultry stays until April 8
The implementation of the 60-day price freeze on poultry and pork will not be adjusted or suspended despite the strong clamor from backyard raisers, traders and resellers who are finding it difficult to meet the price points.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar on Monday said the directive would remain until April 8, noting that it has “undeniably contributed to taming the price surge” on meat, particularly in Metro Manila markets.
The price freeze was approved by President Duterte through an executive order on Feb. 8 upon the recommendation of the agency.
It set the price for chicken, pork ham and pork belly at P160, P270 and P300 a kilo, respectively, against requests of stakeholders to at least peg the price points at P170 to P190 a kilo for chicken and P330 to P360 a kilo for pork so they could at least make a profit.
Bong Inciong, president of the United Broilers Raisers Association, said a glut in poultry meat last year led to a slowdown in production and a shortage of day-old chicks. From P16 before the pandemic, a day-old chick is now being sold as high as P52.
Meanwhile, hog raisers remain wary of the African swine fever’s spread that continues to decimate hog farms nationwide.
Industry leaders as well as economists remain skeptical of the effectiveness of the price freeze.
Based on the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) latest price monitoring report, a kilo of chicken, pork ham and pork belly were being sold in Metro Manila at P160, P300 and P340 on average.
Some markets, however, were selling the same produce for P190, P340 and P360 a kilo, respectively.
While Dar admitted that not all resellers in the market have been compliant with the price freeze, he maintained that it “is still an effective deterrent against unscrupulous trading activities.”
An official from the DA, however, said no one has been penalized for violations since the price freeze began.
Dar said it was important to maintain the directive as this “will send a strong signal to Filipino consumers—who suffer from lower incomes due to the adverse impact of the pandemic on our economy—that [the government] does care about their welfare.”
He added that hog producers, wholesalers, and retailers were expected to do their share in helping the country’s economic recovery effort.
Dar also dismissed suggestions from hog raisers to raise the price ceiling as this would only embolden industry players “that they are capable of pressuring the government to change its mind.”
The current administration is under intense pressure to stabilize the economy after the country’s headline inflation accelerated further to 4.7 percent last month—the highest since January 2019.
The exorbitant prices of food, particularly pork, were seen as the major culprit.
“Lifting [the price freeze] would undeniably result in a dramatic rise in the price of pork and chicken, given that the [swine fever] crisis is still raging and thus continues to impact on local production of hogs nationwide,” Dar said. “That is why we need to augment the current shortfall, estimated at 400,000 metric tons this year, from ASF-free countries.”
The DA, despite opposition from local food players, continues to push for an increase in the minimum access volume of pork imports and a reduction in tariff rates. The agency said it believed that this would immediately squash high prices in the market.
Both reforms have yet to be approved by the Office of the President and the Tariff Commission.
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