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Meat importers want lower tariffs until 2025

Based on the Agriculture department’s price monitoring report on Tuesday, the price of pork kasim ranged from P340 to P390 per kilogram and pork liempo at P360 to P400 per kilogram. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

LOCAL MEAT importers want the government to extend the implementation of lower tariffs on imported pork until 2025, in order to provide a steady supply for consumers and give time for the hog industry to recover.

In a letter to Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III dated May 3, Meat Importers and Traders Association (MITA) President Jesus C. Cham said the decision to reduce tariffs on imported pork for one year was a “bold and courageous move,” but should be effective for the next five years.

He expressed support for the Senate’s compromise proposal to lower the tariff rates for pork imports within the minimum access volume (MAV) quota to 15% and out-quota pork imports at 20%.

“MAV pork has never entered the Philippines in large quantities… Hence maintaining the 30-40% rate would not help the supply situation, but would keep the Philippines from competing with other pork importing countries, China in particular,” he said.

If lower tariffs are implemented until end-2025, Mr. Cham said benefits include a stable supply of pork for consumers and allowing local hog raisers to recover losses from the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak. This will also lessen opportunities for graft and corruption, allow importers to be competitive, and potentially unify in-quota and out-quota rates and set aside the MAV, he said.

“We find reasonable the compromise rate of 15% for the remaining nine months. However, the rate should be incorporated into the upcoming tariff schedule and remain in effect until end-2025,” Mr. Cham said in the letter.

On May 1, Mr. Sotto said in a radio interview that the Senate asked the Executive department for a compromise, proposing to cut the MAV allocation to 200,000 metric tons (MT) from the proposed total of 404,000 MT, and the imported pork tariff rates to 15% for in-quota and 20% for out-quota.

In a Viber message on Tuesday, Mr. Sotto said the Senate already sent these proposals to Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, but declined to give details.

Under Executive Order (EO) No. 128 signed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte on April 7, the tariff on pork imports within the MAV quota was lowered to 5% in the first three months and to 10% in the following nine months.

Mr. Duterte also reduced the tariff on out-quota pork imports to 15% in the first three months and 20% in the succeeding nine months.

Mr. Cham said in a mobile phone message that once the tariffs are lowered, the estimated price of imported pork shoulder (kasim) will be at P300 per kilogram, while pork belly (liempo) will be at P350 per kilogram.

“This is about providing affordable food to consumers. It is not fair that consumers will be burdened by high retail prices of pork,” Mr. Cham said.

Since April 9, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has implemented a suggested retail price (SRP) for imported pork kasim at P270 per kilogram and imported pork liempo at P350 per kilogram. No new SRPs were issued for local pork products.

Nicanor M. Briones, Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines, Inc. (AGAP) president, said in a mobile phone interview that local hog raisers have agreed to the compromise concerning tariff rates and import allocations.

“From 40% to 20%, and from 30% to 15%. And the MAV allocation will be reduced to 200,000 MT. We are already fine with that. But if they push for anything lower, we will not be in favor of it,” he said. 

Mr. Briones said the local hog industry will suffer if the government decides to extend the effectivity of lower tariff rates for five years.

“If they do extend the lower tariff rate until 2025, there will be no one involved in hog raising. We will not earn for five years,” Mr. Briones said.

“It will not only kill hog raisers, but it will also kill other farmers such as coconut farmers, corn farmers, rice farmers, and others since we use their products as feeds,” he added.

Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) Executive Director Jayson H. Cainglet said in a mobile phone message that importers are earning P35 to P50 per kilogram with the high tariff rates.

“With the SRP of imported pork liempo at P350, importers earn at P200 per kilogram. Their profit is just too much,” Mr. Cainglet said.

Based on the DA’s price monitoring report on Tuesday, the price of pork kasim ranged from P340 to P390 per kilogram and pork liempo at P360 to P400 per kilogram. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

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