THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said pork is a deregulated commodity which businesses are free to import, amid complaints from domestic producers about oversupply and the resulting tight supply conditions for cold storage.

“We cannot stop it because it’s a deregulated commodity. For as long as you pay tariffs, for as long as you don’t smuggle it,” imports will be allowed, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said as he opened the Mango Festival at DA headquarters Thursday.

“We are looking at this problem not from a position that we offer temporary solutions, but institutionalized solutions,” he said when asked what can be done with the oversupply.

Mr. Piñol has announced possible plans to “rationalize” the importation of both hog and poultry. He noted 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.

Due to low world prices for hogs of hog, domestic producers cannot compete with imports due to high production costs, especially hog raisers using commercial feeds. In response, the government is aiming to expand sorghum production by next year to help keep a lid on feed costs. It hopes to expand the area planted to sorghum to 200,000 hectares by early 2020.

Sorghum is one of the five most important cereal crops along with rice, wheat, maize, and barley. It is also suited to hot and dry regions and able to withstand drought.

He said the DA is looking into encouraging the private sector to export pork to China to tap demand there due to the Chinese hog industry’s current struggles with African Swine Fever (ASF).He noted that about 20 million hogs in China have been affected by the virus.

The DA has banned imports of pork from affected countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Japan, China, Hungary, Belgium, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Moldova, South Africa and Zambia.

“I cannot take the risk. We have to be very strict about this because the moment na pinasukan tayo ng ASF [ASF enters the country], mamamatay ang ating hog industry [our hog industry will die],” he said.

According to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the total Philippine swine population as of Jan. 1, this year, was 12.71 million head, up 0.83% from a year earlier. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang