Poultry sector press for halt in chicken imports

THE poultry sector has opposed the recommendation of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) to continue poultry imports amid excess local supply. In an open letter addressed to Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar, the United Broilers and Raisers Association (UBRA) and the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) dismissed BAI’s claim that poultry imports are minimal and will not hurt Filipino producers. “Imports are not a ‘mere threat.’ But it has caused actual damage in the last 25 years. The volume of imports need not be overwhelming to cause damage. It only takes a relatively minimal volume to move farmgate prices from profit to loss as agricultural products are commodities,” UBRA said. PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto said Mr. Dar has not given serious attention to the difficulties experienced by the poultry industry. “Food production is the main focus of the economic managers to recover from COVID-19. But the people of the Department of Agriculture recommend the opposite in favor of foreign producers,” Mr. Fausto said.

Industry stakeholders have already called for a temporary ban on poultry imports due to excess supply as commercial buyers such as restaurant chains have been forced to close during the lockdown, prompting a drop in farm gate prices. BAI met with UBRA and PCAFI officials on May 4 to discuss meat supply. The two groups petitioned for the immediate suspension of poultry meat and products importation. BAI, however, asked the local poultry raisers to ‘self-regulate’ and limit local production, according to the two groups. “It is bizarre to think. At a time when the DA Secretary, together with the economic managers, is encouraging local production, BAI is telling a key industry to limit production in order to give space to imports,” UBRA said. In a virtual briefing on Tuesday, DA Undersecretary Ariel T. Cayanan said poultry imports will be regulated instead of imposing a temporary suspension. Mr. Cayanan added that additional guidelines will be imposed by the government on the approval and issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances on meat commodities. Philippine poultry imports for 2020 is seen to increase 13% to 390,000 metric tons (MT), according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture–Foreign Agricultural Services. As of May 25, the inventory of dressed chicken in accredited cold storages was at 89,601 MT, according to a report from the National Meat Inspection Service. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

Cash aid 2nd tranche distribution starts next week

THE Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will start distributing next week the second tranche of the government’s cash aid program for poor households who have been affected by the lockdown to contain the coronavirus spread. In a briefing on Tuesday, Palace Spokesperson Harry L. Roque said beneficiaries can expect faster distribution in the second round. “It will take them two days to distribute electronically and the rest with the assistance of the Armed Forces,” he said. In a separate briefing, DSWD Undersecretary Rene Glen Paje said they are currently just doing “finishing touches” on the first tranche distribution. Meanwhile, Mr. Roque said the administration is still assessing if there will be enough funds for an additional round of distribution specifically for jeepney drivers who have been banned from operating since the start of the lockdown in mid-March. He added that the government plans to provide alternative livelihood to jeepney drivers in the delivery service business. — Gillian M. Cortez

DA signs deal of satellite imaging for better crop productivity

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is tapping satellite technology to help farmers increase productivity. The DA announced Monday that Secretary William D. Dar has signed an agreement with Philippine-based agro-chemical company Planters Products Inc. (PPI) and Switzerland-based Satsure AG for a project that will provide satellite imaging for 100,000 hectares of rice farms and another 40,000 hectares planted with various crops over a six-month period. “This will help in our ongoing efforts to provide our farmers with direct and targeted assistance to improve their productivity,” Mr. Dar said. The project, with an initial funding support of P5 million, will be launched in the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Iloilo, and North Cotabato. Mr. Dar said the project is also intended to help the DA strengthen its disaster response, especially on risk insurance, and improve crop monitoring. “The traditional source of information which relies heavily on fieldwork will be insufficient in the country. As we modernize our agriculture sector, we must continuously explore for relevant technology to increase sufficiency and productivity,” he said. Satsure AG works on remote sensing satellites and other sensing sources to monitor agricultural crop portfolio and estimate agriculture yields. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

BoC finds 2 bonded warehouses with ‘blatant’ violations

THE Bureau of Customs (BoC) found two bonded warehouses to have “blatant and blaring” violations, with P180-million worth of unpaid duties and taxes. “Out of the 28 warehouses that we have so far inspected, 20 were found to be compliant and five were recommended for review (while) two were found to have blatant and blaring violations. If we take Mofels (Food International Corp.) as an example, we are demanding P90 million for the unliquidated goods… (and) Felmocor (Food Processing Corp.), so another P90 million,” BOC Deputy Commissioner Edward James A. Dy Buco said during a virtual hearing of the House ways and means committee. A bonded warehouse is a customs-controlled building for the retention of imported goods until the duty owed is paid. According to the BOC, there are 181 such facilities in the country. Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita B. Suansing, who presented the report of the committee’s initial findings on the import and export transactions of the selected bonded warehouses, said the liquidation documents submitted by both companies “showed many loopholes” as well as “consistent lack of information.” Ms. Suansing added that the commodities indicated in the companies’ bills of lading were sold domestically. A bill of lading is a detailed list of a shipment of goods issued by a carrier to acknowledge receipt of cargo for shipment. BOC Commissioner Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero said they air to complete their audit of bonded warehouses in three to four months. — Genshen L. Espedido

Sotto asks DepEd to come up with staggered tuition payment scheme

SENATE President Vicente C. Sotto III on Tuesday asked the Department of Education (DepEd) to develop an installment scheme for tuition payments in private schools in consideration of households hit hard by the lockdown. “The DepEd should come out with more flexible payment terms so students can continue to enroll for this school year,” Mr. Sotto said in a statement. “Private schools should be more accepting of proposed different payment schemes which are more affordable to parents who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease 2019) lockdown,” he said, citing government estimates that about 10 million workers could lose their jobs this year. The 2020-2021 school year for basic and primary education will open August, with academic institutions expected to implement a blended learning system to avoid physical classroom sessions. This is in compliance to the directive of President Rodrigo R. Duterte against the reopening classes in the absence of a vaccine. — Charmaine A. Tadalan