THE Department of Agriculture (DA) acknowledged the possibility of price manipulation in the market for fresh pork and threatened to prosecute farmers and dealers engaged in such activity.
Although the supply of frozen pork is ample, the stockpile has seen a “slow drawdown,” reflecting the market’s preference for freshly-slaughtered pork, whose supply traders may have been “deliberately” withholding “to artificially jack up prices,” Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said.
He added that the DA’s investigation will also consider the role of supply chain inefficiencies in high prices.
As of Oct. 21, the price of pork shoulder, known in the market as kasim, was P320 per kilogram, while pork belly, or liempo, was at about P360 per kilogram in Metro Manila public markets.
Citing the National Meat Inspection Service, the DA said that as of the third week of October, the frozen pork inventory in government-accredited cold storage was up 55% year on year to 38,216 metric tons (MT).
The inventory of frozen dressed chicken and chicken parts rose 260% to 83,266 MT.
“We’re looking into reasons why there’s a very slow withdrawal of frozen pork products despite the availability of supply, and (as) demand has started to pick up as the government opens up the economy,” Mr. Dar said.
Mr. Dar said he will ask the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) to conduct a parallel investigation on possible violations of Republic Act No. 10667 or the Philippine Competition Act, by traders that may be controlling the pork supply.
According to the DA, it has a standing agreement with the PCC on investigations, information sharing, and enforcement to deter anti-competitive practices.
In a statement, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) President Rosendo O. So said the problem lies in the distribution of pork products from the Visayas and Mindanao to Luzon.
“We have been urging the DA to bring 30% of live hogs from the Visayas and Mindanao to Luzon. There is no pork shortage,” SINAG said.
Early in October, the DA said that pork supply could end the year with a deficit of 231,030 MT or 45 days’ worth of consumption. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave