THE drastic increase in allowable pork imports is likely to discourage farmers from expanding their hog herds, threatening the industry, farmers’ representatives said.

Edwin G. Chen, president of the Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines, Inc., (ProPork) said in a mobile phone message that there is no need to expand the pork import quota, known as the minimum access volume (MAV).

President Rodrigo R. Duterte “was probably misinformed by his advisers. This act of raising the MAV will further weaken pork producers,” Mr. Chen said.

On Friday, the President’s spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. announced that Mr. Duterte has asked Congress to expand the MAV allocation for pork imports to 404,210 metric tons (MT) from the current 54,210 MT.

Imports within the MAV quota are charged a 30% tariff while out-of-quota shipments must pay 40%.

“This is to immediately augment the supply of pork, stabilize increasing prices, and address the pressing issues on food security,” Mr. Roque said in a statement.

The drive to increase the supply of pork follows a sharp increase in prices after the domestic herd was decimated by African Swine Fever.

Nicanor M. Briones, ProPork vice-president for Luzon, said in a mobile phone message that Mr. Duterte’s proposal will deter hog raisers from expanding their herds, noting that a MAV allocation of 404,210 MT is the equivalent of 8 million hogs.

“Higher MAV allocation means that wet markets will be flooded with imported pork not only in Luzon but also in the Visayas and Mindanao which are not experiencing shortages,” Mr. Briones said.

“The proposal will further aggravate the shortage of pork supply next year. Also, other hog raisers will stop operations” because of the expanded supply of competing imports.

Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura Chairman Rosendo O. So said in a statement Sunday that consumers and producers will lose out, while only a select group of importers will benefit.

Congress is on break and will resume on May 17.

“Congress has not been given the chance to deliberate on the matter since the Department of Agriculture (DA) knew it can never justify its proposal (if it went before) a fair platform,” Mr. So said.

Jesus C. Cham, president of the Meat Importers and Traders Association, said in a mobile phone message that increasing the MAV quota is a step in the right direction in increasing the supply of pork.

Mr. Cham said a lowering of pork tariffs is still needed to bring down the retail price.

“The DA informed us that the hog sector projected a deficit of 500,000 MT. It remains to be seen whether the higher MAV allocation will be enough. With a lowered tariff, out-quota imports can hopefully alleviate some of the pain,” Mr. Cham said.

Asked to comment, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said in a mobile phone message that the DA has not received a copy of the recommendation from Mr. Duterte.

Earlier in the year, the DA recommended the MAV increase as well as a lowering of the tariff for pork imports within the MAV quota to 5%-10%, and that for out-of-quota imports to 15%-20%.

According to the Bureau of Animal Industry, pork imports hit 58,757.07 MT in the first two months of 2021, up 91.3% year on year.

Meanwhile, the DA said live hog deliveries to Metro Manila markets amounted to 229,774 animals, since shipments began on Feb. 8 to expand supply in support of price controls imposed on that date. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave