THE Department of Agriculture (DA) and the fisheries industry agreed on Friday to allow the importation of round scad, or galunggong, as the closed fishing season nears.
Agriculture secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol told reporters on Friday that he will be amending the fisheries administrative order by today, Monday to allow the importation of round scad for direct sale to the market. The old rules only allow imports for food processors.
“The closed fishing season will start in November but this early we’ll allow the importation of fish,” he added, noting that the volume of imports will depend on market demand.
“Before, only traders were allowed to import but we will make sure that even the industry stakeholders themselves, the fishermen […] the fish vendors associations [can import]. We’ll make sure that the fish goes directly to the market.”
The imports are expected to ensure sufficient supply during the holidays with domestic production shut down due to the closed fishing season which will run until March.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that round scad production dropped by 5.86% year-on-year in the second quarter and 9.5% in the first half of 2018 due to strong winds and rough seas as well as the high cost of fuel which discouraged fishing voyages.
PSA also noted that there were reduced sightings of round scad during fishing trips.
Mr. Piñol also said that the fishing industry agreed to set the tariff rate for fish imports at 5%. Fish import tariffs range from 3% to 10%.
“That has to be contained in an EO (executive order) signed by the president because it’s a tariff issue. That can only happen when the Congress is in recess,” Mr. Piñol said.
“That’s what the sector wants since the landed cost of the fish is already low. The landed cost of galunggong is about P70. Even with the tariff, it won’t reach P100. So our target is not to increase beyond the set SRP (suggested retail price) of P140,” he added.
The P140 SRP for round scad was set by the DA in late June along with seven other commodities in an effort to arrest rising prices in Metro Manila wet markets. The same scheme is expected to be rolled out in other areas of the Philippines.
The DA met with agriculture stakeholders last week to discuss the need to import under the Minimum Access Volume scheme. At the meeting, the DA agreed to cancel the pork and poultry import permits of companies that did not utilize their permits.
During the meeting, both sides also concluded that farmgate prices were not an issue despite the rising costs at retail level.
“As far as the agriculture sector is concerned we were able to establish today that the movement in the prices of commodities is not at the farmgate. It’s in the market. It’s not within our jurisdiction,” Mr. Piñol said. — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato