A FARM industry association, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG), has proposed an increase in tariffs for imported pork to the Tariff Commission.

SINAG Chairman Rosendo O. So said in a letter to the commission that tariffs for pork imports within the minimum access volume (MAV) quota should rise to 40%, and the rate charged for out-of-quota imports set at 44%.

Currently, pork imports within the MAV are charged with 30%, while out-of-quota imports pay 40%.

MAV applies to farm commodities that can be imported at lower tariffs under the World Trade Organization (WTO) system.

“Importers are raking in profits at the current tariff rate with no corresponding (impact) on the retail price of prime pork cuts,” Mr. So said in the letter.

According to Mr. So, the average landed cost of pork imports was P81 per kilogram in the January 2020 to January 2021 period. He was citing the Bureau of Customs data.

He added that imported pork sold for between P350 and P450 per kilogram in the first two months of 2021, a period in which pork market prices were rising due to insufficient supply as a result of the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak.

“Importers claim that they are not violating any law and are just following the retail price of pork. They are easily profiting between P200 to 250 per kilogram at the current retail of P350 to 400 per kilogram of pork belly (liempo) and pork shoulder (kasim),” Mr. So said.

On Feb. 8, the government implemented a price ceiling that capped the prices of kasim at P270 per kilogram and liempo at P300 per kilogram.

It also capped the price of whole chicken at P160 per kilogram.

Mr. So added that raising pork tariffs will generate revenue that can be used by the government to fund its coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) containment and relief programs.

“Reducing tariffs will deprive the government of much-needed revenue… that could support the COVID-19 vaccination program and efforts to help the livestock industry recover from the ASF outbreak,” Mr. So said.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) has a pending proposal to lower tariffs for pork imports to increase supply and dampen price pressures. It proposes to lower the tariff on pork imports within the MAV quota to between 5% and 10%, and that for out-of-quota imports to between 15% and 20%.

The DA has also recommended an increase in the MAV quota to 404,210 metric tons (MT) from the current 54,000 MT.

Jesus C. Cham, president of the Meat Importers and Traders Association (MITA) said in a mobile phone message that SINAG’s proposal is not favorable for groups wishing to import pork.

Mr. Cham said MITA is not in favor of raising the tariffs, but added it will wait for the Tariff Commission to call a hearing before presenting its position.

“This goes against the WTO principles of globalization and trade facilitation. Local producers want to force consumers to patronize them at any price, not taking into consideration the affordability of the product,” Mr. Cham said.

“Producers said they will sell their products at a fair price. This price has been proven to be unaffordable to the great majority of consumers,” he added.

The United Broiler Raisers Association, whose members raise poultry for meat, sent a letter to Senator Cynthia A. Villar on March 18 seeking the abolition of the MAV scheme for pork and chicken imports, touting its proposal as an anti-corruption measure.

DA Spokesperson Noel O. Reyes said in a mobile phone message that the department is aware of SINAG’s proposal and is awaiting the decision of the Tariff Commission.

“They sounded it out during the recent Senate Committee public hearing. (The proposals are) already with the Tariff Commission. Our goal is to stabilize the supply and prices of pork as local hog production will not suffice,” Mr. Reyes said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave