Slow imports seen driving ham, lechon prices up during Christmas
MANILA, Philippines—Despite easing headline inflation, pork—which brought overall price increases faster since late last year–has again become more expensive during this Christmas holiday season.
The inflation rate eased to 4.2 percent year-on-year in November—the lowest in four months, the government reported on Tuesday (Dec. 7).
But the rate of price increases November in prices of basic commodities remained above the government’s 2 to 4 percent target band of manageable price increases. As of end-November, inflation averaged 4.5 percent.
National Statistician Dennis Mapa told a press briefing that softer inflation in food and non-alcoholic beverages—3.9 percent in November from 5.3 percent in October—led the decline in the overall inflation rate.
Nationwide meat inflation also eased to 10.7 percent from October’s 11.9 percent.
But in Metro Manila, meat inflation rose to 8.8 percent in November from 7.5 percent in October. Outside Metro Manila, meat prices increased by a faster 11.3 percent year-on-year but it was a slower pace than the 13.1-percent rise last October.
Mapa said after declining in October, pork prices again rose in November. Pure pork meat prices, for instance, declined to P311 per kilo in October from P329 a kilo in September but again climbed to P332 per kilo in November.
In the case of pork with bones, a kilo cost a higher P303 in November from October’s P282 and September’s P295.
Inflation in pure pork meat averaged 22 percent, while meat with bones increased by an average of 23 percent, Mapa said.
Mapa said high demand during the Christmas holidays — when many Filipinos consume pork and dishes like ham and lechon, among others — were expected to keep prices elevated.
In a statement, the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) noted that pork prices in November rose 4.2 percent compared to October levels.
Neda cited data from the Department of Agriculture (DA) that showed slower pork import arrivals. Only 42 percent of expanded pork minimum access volume—the volume ceiling for importation—had been used as of end-November.
Unreleased inventory of imported pork, Neda said, was 76,953 metric tons.
“The slow importation and release of inventory, together with higher demand due to the Christmas season, led to higher average pork prices in November,” Neda said.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua, also Neda head, said pork prices continued to go down month-on-month from July to early October.
“This means that our policy to temporarily import pork has been effective,” he said.
“However, the uptick in prices in November shows that we need to further ease administrative requirements for the unloading and distribution of stocks to encourage more importation and help bring back pork prices to their pre-African swine fever (ASF) level,” Chua said.
Shortage in pork supply due to the local ASF outbreak since late 2020 and other food items made more expensive by bad weather pushed headline inflation above target range.
To address food inflation, President Rodrigo Duterte had issued executive orders (EOs) to suspend quotas and higher import duties in a bid to ramp up importation of pork and fish.
However, Neda said in a separate report that the supply of pork would remain in a deficit of 155,500 metric tons (MT) by the end of 2021.
Neda said delays in import arrivals and low rate of use of expanded MAV could be due to international port closures and market restrictions brought by COVID. These, according to Neda, “prevented the unhampered distribution of imported pork to wet markets and to all regions.”
Neda said that imported pork was being sold only in supermarkets, wet markets and Kadiwa centers in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces.
It said to increase use of expanded MAV for pork, the government may consider transferring unused MAV volumes from the first tranche to the second tranche. Also, the validity of EO No. 133, which lifted most import restrictions, should be extended to December 2022.
“The government may encourage the fast-tracking and unloading of more pork stocks from cold storages to the markets,” Neda said.
“The timely release of pork stocks will help address the supply gap and bring down pork prices,” Neda added.
Also, despite planned importation of 60,000 MT, fish supply would still end 2021 with a 126,900-MT deficit, Neda said, citing estimates of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) as of end-October.
Citing data from the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority, Neda said 57,121 MT of import volume had been allocated to 26 importers. At least 22.7 percent of import permit applications had already been issued sanitary and other permits, Neda said.
Subscribe to our business newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.