THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said that it is looking to “rationalize” the importation program for both hog and poultry due to high levels of inventory in cold storage, beginning with a study to determine the market’s capacity to absorb imports amid demands for greater protection for growers.

“The stakeholders and the DA have agreed to start a rationalization program for both the hog and poultry industry. It was agreed that right now there is a need to conduct a study on the absorptive capacity of the market in relation to supply. This was agreed upon because of the very volatile prices of both poultry and pork,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol told reporters Monday.

He said there is a need to determine “for example, how much chicken should be produced at a certain period of the year. And then we will have to link up with the importers themselves kasi pag hindi natin ginawa ito lahat sila masasaktan [because if they do not follow the plan they will all be hurt],” Mr. Piñol said.

The decision was arrived at amid an oversupply of pork beyond the capacity of the cold storage industry. He said hog raisers are demanding intervention because they cannot release pigs into the market because storage facilities cannot absorb more supply. A similar scenario is playing out with frozen poultry.

“There was an understanding that pending the rationalization of the industry, we may have to go slow on the issuance of new import permits given the fact that poultry in cold storage right now is about 27.805 million kilos. For pork it’s 34.330 million kilos,” which he said was equivalent to three months’ supply.

Ang ating purpose ngayon ay ipa-unload muna natin sa mga local hog raisers ’yung kanilang [Our purpose now is to allow the local hog raisers to unload their] stocks and then slowly we will eat up into the stocks in cold storage and then we start with a rational supply system which will take into consideration demand and the absorptive capacity of the market,” he said.

Mr. Piñol said the process will require setting up a database of all hog and poultry raisers to improve estimates of market demand.

“We will have to start reforming the system after the Holy Week. In fact I’m planning to engage a professional research group that will conduct the study on the market and the supply,” he noted.

“We will have to sit down with the importers next week. I will meet with [them] by April 23, after the Holy Week, para madetermine namin kung ano ’yung [so we can determine what] volume na hindi naman maapektuhan ’yung kanilang negosyo [will not affect their business],” he said.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), in 2018, the farmgate price of hogs for slaughter rose 8.29% to P115.58 per kg, while the farmgate price of broiler chicken at commercial farms was P82.79, up 4.09%.

Meat imports surged 22.73% in 2018, according to the Bureau of Animal Industry, while poultry imports increased by 18.06%. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang