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RCEF-style fund proposed for hog industry

A FUND supported by import tariffs has been proposed to improve the competitiveness of the hog industry, Senator Cynthia A. Villar said.

Ms. Villar, who chairs the chamber’s committee on agriculture and food, said during a hearing that such a fund is modeled on the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which gets P10 billion a year from tariffs charged on liberalized rice imports. RCEF funds initiatives like farm mechanization, seed distribution, the spread of planting know-how, and crop insurance.

“I will do something like the RCEF (which) we can… allocate to uses which the hog sector thinks are important,” Ms. Villar said.

Ms. Villar said the fund could support disease control efforts, meat inspection facilities, insurance subsidies for hog raisers, and hog repopulation, helping the industry recover from the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak.

The RCEF is authorized by Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law, which also set the tariff for more liberalized rice imports at 35% for Southeast Asian grain.

At the hearing, Senator Francis N. Pangilinan asked the Department of Agriculture (DA) to recommend the declaration of a state of emergency to mobilize the funding needed to address ASF.

Mr. Pangilinan said a declaration can vest the authorities with the power to realign funds for use by the embattled industry.

“Damage to the hog industry is at P56 billion but the funding given to address the issue is at P500 million. The declaration of a state of emergency will address the small budget allotted to help hog raisers,” Mr. Pangilinan said.

He also supported funding from tariffs.

Asked to comment on the industry, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura Executive Director Jayson H. Cainglet said in a mobile phone message that Bureau of Customs data indicates that imports generated tariffs of P3.88 billion in 2020.

He added that the industry still wants the DA to reverse its current policy stance on pork imports, saying that the industry will “go directly to the Senate” to register its opposition.

The DA has two pending proposals regarding pork imports. The first is to lower tariff rates to 5% for pork imports within the minimum access volume (MAV) quota for six months, rising to 10% in the succeeding six months.

It also recommends a change in the tariffs for out-of-quota pork imports to 15% in the first six months, rising to 20% in the following six months.

Currently, pork imports within the MAV quota are charged a 30% tariff, while those beyond MAV pay 40%.

The second DA proposal awaiting approval is to increase the MAV to 404,210 metric tons (MT) from the current 54,000 MT.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the national hog inventory as of Jan. 1 was down 24.1% year on year at 9.72 million animals. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

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