2012’s chicken without a head
Next year’s “chicken without a head” may well be the Philippine poultry sector itself. Running in every direction like a headless chicken, this sector may meet the same fate that befell many of our failed industries.
The term “chicken without a head” originated in Jamaica. The King’s English Dictionary states: “When they slaughter a chicken, they cut the head off, and the body starts running around without the head. You think it’s dancing. The chicken’s body without any head at all keeps moving in a hasty and unstable movement like it’s crazy, then it falls down.”
In the last few years, the poultry sector has been referred to as a “chicken without a head.”
Gregorio San Diego, chair of the United Broiler Raisers Association, said: “I cannot encourage small farmers to raise chickens as a means to improve their income. They may lose, rather than gain, money. The government does not give the poultry sector enough support. Sometimes, it even takes action that harms the poultry farmers.”
Poultry is significant. San Diego said it ranks second only to rice because of its 15 percent contribution to the agricultural sector.
How has poultry fared over the last six years? The table below shows an alarming increase in chicken imports.
Since the 2011 imports do not cover December, let us assume that this level equals that of December last year. The estimated full year 2011 imports will then be 123,749 tons. This means that 2008 imports are 1.4 times 2006 imports. For 2010, it is 3.1 times; for 2011, it is 3.8 times!
Aside from the alarming import increases, the poultry sector is also the victim of rampant smuggling. The most glaring example is the smuggling from China and Hong Kong.
Compared with the poultry exports recorded in the United Nations Statistics Division-Commodity Statistics Database from China and Hong Kong to the Philippines, the Bureau of Customs records only 5 percent and 3 percent of these levels, respectively.
The glaring discrepancy in these figures is conceivably due to either outright or technical smuggling (i.e., undervaluation, misdeclaration, or misclassification). Therefore, the import levels in the table given above are grossly understated because they do not take into account the smuggled poultry products.
Despite an order banning all poultry products from China and Hong Kong since 2004 because of the Avian or Bird Flu threat, these poultry products were openly sold in large establishments until the raids last Dec. 13.
Prior to the raids, since the government was not taking action and because of the danger to lives from the Bird Flu threat, Alyansa Agrikultura leaders purchased these banned smuggled poultry products from 10 retail establishments. They then submitted these products as proof of smuggling to the Department of Agriculture, which finally conducted the raids. However, the filing of charges against these 10 establishments has not been completed.
The alarming import levels, rampant smuggling, and poor implementation of regulatory laws could all have been avoided if there were a poultry master plan. The last such plan was formulated in 2002. This was guided by a review panel composed of former Agriculture Secretary Senen Bacani, former Science and Technology Secretary Ceferino Follosco, and former Agriculture Deputy Minister Manuel Lim.
During last February’s Agriculture and Fisheries 2025 (AF 2025) conference, poultry leaders asked for an update of the obsolete nine-year-old master plan. Nothing was done. Recently, the National Competitiveness Council identified the formulation of industry master plans as a 2012 priority. There is no mention of agriculture or agriculture master plans as a priority.
Unless political will is exercised, the poultry industry may continue to be like a “chicken without a head”. It moves in every direction, and may eventually “fall down”. Though the DA has done an admirable job in decreasing corruption, there is nevertheless a desire for increased competence in 2012.
The fate of “falling down” may also happen to other key agricultural sectors because they also have no comprehensive master plans.
The AF 2025 resolution to formulate such plans has remained largely unheeded.
We recommend that our government give agriculture and agriculture master plans the attention and action they deserve.
Our hope for the New Year is for a direction-driven, corruption-minimized, and competence-enhanced agricultural sector that will serve as the strong backbone of our economy in the coming years.
Year Tons % of 2006
2006 32,680 100%
2008 45,772 140%
2010 101,9573 126%
2011* 113,545 3474%
*Up to November, according to DA Statistics
(The author is chair of Agriwatch and former undersecretary for Agriculture, and Trade and Industry. For inquiries and suggestions, e-mail [email protected] or telefax (02)8522112).
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