MEAT IMPORTS in the first two months of the year fell 12.5% from a year earlier to 122,098.31 metric tons (MT), according to the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI).

The BAI said over the weekend that meat imports fell mainly due to reduced volumes for chicken, lamb, turkey, and buffalo products, even as pork, beef, and duck imports rose.

Chicken imports totaled 34,948.28 MT, down 57.2% from a year earlier. 

Around 56.9% or 19,893.56 MT of the chicken meat imports came in the form of mechanically deboned meat (MDM), a raw material used by the food industry in canned goods and other processed meat products. Chicken MDM imports dropped 55.7%.

Pork imports rose 91.3% year on year to 58,757.07 MT, while beef imports rose 10.9% to 22,489.89 MT.

Buffalo meat imports fell 9.4% year on year to 5,713 MT; turkey imports fell 40.4% to 142.55 MT; and lamb imports fell 83.7% to 39.70 MT.

Duck imports rose 32.8% year on year to 7.82 MT.

The largest source of imports in the year to date was the US, which accounted for 19.6% or 23,928.47 MT.

Canada supplied 17.4% or 21,202.21 MT, Spain 13.2% or 16,079.54 MT, and the Netherlands 8.2% or 9,982.23 MT.

Jesus C. Cham, president of the Meat Importers and Traders Association, said in a mobile phone message that the jump in pork imports was due to high prices and tight supply of domestically-grown pork.

“There was a strong increase in pork imports — almost double. This is due to the high price and scarcity of domestic pork,” Mr. Cham said.

Pork products sold in Metro Manila recently touched highs of P400 per kilogram, which subsequently pushed the government to implement a price ceiling.

Executive Order No. 124 implemented on Feb. 8 limited the price of pork shoulder (kasim) to P270 per kilogram, pork belly (liempo) to P300 per kilogram, and whole chicken to P160 per kilogram.

The DA has estimated a pork supply deficit of 400,000 MT due to the African Swine Fever outbreak in domestic hog farms. 

It has petitioned to increase the pork imports Minimum Access Volume (MAV) import quota to 404,210 MT from the current 54,000 MT.

Pork imports within the MAV quota are charged a 30% tariff, while pork imports outside the quota must pay 40%.

Mr. Cham said the decline in chicken MDM imports indicates that meat processors are facing a raw material shortage.

“The lower economic classes will have less affordable choices.  A reduction of pork tariffs is needed to provide more affordable pork,” Mr. Cham said.

The DA also has a pending proposal to lower the tariff on pork imports within MAV quota to 5%-10%, and those outside the MAV to 15%-20%, as part of overall efforts to expand pork supply.

As of Jan. 1, the national hog inventory fell 24.1% year on year to 9.72 million animals, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave