APPLICANT FOR PHOTO FILE / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

Manila, Philippines – Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III on Monday said he supported measures to extend the volume of pork imports until the end of next year amid nearly 3.7 billion pesos in revenue lost to date due to lower tariffs, still expensive pork and the current shortage of supply until the end of the year.

Separately, local rice farmers also said on Monday that they suffered heavy losses and that consumers paid more to consume rice, while middlemen reaped more profits following the implementation of the rice pricing law. (RTL) over two years ago.

The latest Customs Office (BOC) data provided by Dominguez showed the estimated loss of income, on the assessed value of 19.4 billion pesos of imported pork that entered the country from April 9 to December 10, due to the implementation of the executive decree. (EO) Nos. 128 and 134. These EOs set lower tariffs for pork imports covered by higher minimum access volumes (MAS) since April. EO 134, which replaced EO 128, will be implemented until May of next year.

Another order from Duterte, the EO 133, raised the 2021 MAS for pork to 254,210 metric tonnes instead of just 54,210 tonnes of imports due to the supply shortage caused by the outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) since the end of last year.

It was hoped that the lower tariffs and larger import volumes allowed would increase supply and lower pork prices, which contributed the most to inflation above the Philippines target. or faster price increases than the government considered manageable This year.

Despite these EOs, estimates from the National Economic and Development Authority or Neda have shown that the pork supply in the Philippines will be in deficit of 155,500 MT by the end of the year.

Thus, pork prices rose again in November in part due to slow imports, limited distribution of imported pork and growing demand in the middle of the Christmas season.

When asked if he was satisfied with the implementation of EOs to reduce pork prices, Dominguez replied: “Not quite, if I understood correctly there were regulations imposed by the DA-NMIS. [Department of Agriculture’s National Meat Inspection Service] limiting the access of imported pork to certain markets.

State planning agency Neda had long flagged this concern, especially when pork prices fell in Metro Manila, but not outside the National Capital Region (NCR), as pork prices fell. imports were only delivered and sold in supermarkets and not in wet markets.

While the Ministry of Agriculture already issued a circular memorandum in October to distribute more pork to areas outside the NCR as well as to institutional buyers and processors, Neda was pushing to extend the validity of OE 133 until December 2022 “to maximize the benefits of these [EOs]. “

Dominguez said he was in favor of Neda’s proposal on EO 133.

As for EO 134, which is a measure of revenue erosion, the Department of Finance (DOF) will first consider whether an extension can also be continued or not, Dominguez said.

In a virtual briefing, stakeholders in the rice industry stressed that it was not necessary to remove RTL entirely. Instead, the government should adopt a policy that would benefit the country, especially local farmers, in the long run.

“We are not saying to get rid of RTL completely, but to revise the law so that it benefits local farmers.

Today we are forced to sell our land to pay off our debts. Our agricultural land is being converted to industrial use instead of food production, ”said Rene Cerilla, head of legal and political advocacy at Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (Pakisama) in the Philippines.

The national director of the Federation of Free Farmers’ Co-operatives, Inc., Raul Montemayor, said there had been no significant changes since the enactment of RTL. But this bill opened the door to “unlimited imports” and wholesale rice prices fell.

Montemayor said there had been no significant improvement in production volume, yield, production costs and competitiveness thanks to support from the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) and tariff revenues.

As a result, he said rice farmers lost 56 billion pesos after the law came into effect while consumers paid 6.16 billion pesos more for rice products.

Wholesalers and retailers, as well as importers, earned an additional 78.40 billion pesos and 30.70 billion pesos, respectively, from the liberalization of the rice trade.

Montemayor noted a larger gap between wholesale and retail prices for rice following the enactment of the law in February 2019.

Citing data from the Statistics Authority of the Philippines (PSA), he said that in 2017, the price of wholesale rice was 37.46 pesos per kilo while the price of retail rice was 42. , 14 pesos per kilo.

However, in 2020 the wholesale rice price was 33.64 pesos per kilo while the retail rice price was 41.67 pesos per kilo.

“[The RTL] should have lowered the retail price and passed the savings on to consumers; instead, importers and traders pocketed the difference, ”Montemayor added.

Advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan said the government should develop more pro-producer policies on food production.

“We encourage government policy makers to re-evaluate contemporary decisions that have been made or to be taken regarding importation that have definitely affected our domestic producers,” the group said.

Prudenciano Gordoncillo, a professional lecturer in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, said farmers should find other alternatives and not rely on just one crop to alleviate their plight in the long run.

“Our farmers should diversify and grow other crops. For example, corn is a good option. Maize was the main source of carbohydrates in Visayas and Mindanao, and then it was replaced by rice, ”Gordoncillo said.

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