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Agri dep’t won’t budge on price controls for pork, chicken

PHILIPPINE STAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

THE price controls on pork and chicken will remain in force until April 8 as originally planned, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said, in order to stem a dramatic rise in the commodities.

“Lifting (the price controls) will undeniably result in a dramatic rise in prices of pork and chicken, given that the African Swine Fever (ASF) crisis is still raging and continues to impact on production of hogs nationwide,” Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said in a statement Monday.

Forging ahead with price controls comes amid opposition from the pork industry, which is seeking the freedom to charge prices beyond the current limits in order to earn an adequate return on their produce.

The price controls were implemented via Executive Order (EO) No. 124 after market prices for pork topped P400 per kilogram.

The EO, issued on Feb. 1 but implemented a week later, capped the price of pork shoulder (kasim) at P270 per kilogram, pork belly (liempo) at P300 per kilogram, and whole chicken at P160 per kilogram.

Mr. Dar said adjustments to the price ceiling are likely to be met by sellers exceeding even the adjusted prices.

“Though the price ceiling may not ensure full compliance by the traders and retailers, it is still an effective deterrent against unscrupulous trading activities,” Mr. Dar said.

“By maintaining it, the government will send a strong signal to consumers — who are suffering from lower incomes due to the adverse impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on our economy — that it does care about their welfare,” he added.

The hog industry has pushed for the removal of price ceilings and proposed instead a suggested retail price for pork products of between P330 and P360 per kilogram.

Edwin G. Chen, president of the Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines, Inc., said in a mobile phone message that the group is awaiting government aid in hog repopulation and ASF eradication programs.

“We will just help in whatever we can. It is really up to the hog traders and vendors to follow the price ceiling,” Mr. Chen said.

As of Feb. 26, the total number of culled pigs due to ASF totaled 442,402 animals, the DA said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

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