THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said Tuesday that a council which helps determine quotas for imports entitled to tariff rates under the minimum access volume (MAV) system has backed its plan to import more pork.

It said the MAV Advisory Council “endorsed” the DA’s plan to raise import volumes entitled to MAV tariff rates, as the government scrambles to increase the pork supply and contain inflation following drastic reductions to the domestic hog population in Luzon due to an outbreak of African Swine Fever.

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said at a briefing that the council recently endorsed expanding the MAV allocation for pork to 388,790 metric tons (MT) from 54,000 MT, more than double than the DA’s original proposal of 162,000 MT.

Imports beyond MAV quotas must pay a 40% tariff, or 10 percentage points more than the imports within the quota.

The advisory council’s endorsement has yet to be discussed by the MAV management committee, which is chaired by the DA with representatives from the Departments of Trade and Industry, Finance, and Agrarian Reform, Mr. Dar said. 

Any increase in the import quota would authorize traders and hog raisers to import both live hogs and pork products, he said. 

Mr. Dar said a proposal to further lower tariffs on pork for one year is now pending at the Tariff Commission.

Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura Chairperson Rosendo O. So, who was invited to speak at the briefing, said: “There is no reason to lower the tariff on pork imports” because “importers can make money with the current tariffs.”

“Even with cold storage fees and delivery fees, importers can make money,” he said, noting that importers have no complaints about the current tariff.

Mr. Dar said the DA is currently extending zero-interest working-capital loans to vendors’ associations in public markets in the National Capital Region, to help them deal with the surge in pork prices.

The market vendors’ financing program allows vendors’ associations to borrow up to P5 million, payable in three to five years. 

The program, which will be administered by the DA’s Agricultural Credit and Policy Council, will enable vendors to buy hogs directly from hog raisers in the countryside “and sell these at reasonable prices to consumers in Metro Manila,” Mr. Dar said in a statement. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza