MEAT processors told the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) that they were expecting a “severe” shortage of meat products by the middle of April, as their inventories of finished products and supplies of raw goods could last for just up to two weeks during the month-long enhanced community quarantine period.

Still, in a statement to BusinessWorld, the Philippine Association of Meat Processors, Inc. (PAMPI) said not to panic.

In a letter sent to DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, PAMPI said that the Luzon-wide total lockdown, which runs from March 17 to April 14, has impeded the delivery of raw materials to manufacturing plants, which has seen low production of meat products thus far.

If this continues, they expect that they will run out of meat products in their inventories to sell by the first week of April.

The 80-member group of food manufacturers, which mostly operate on a just-in-time basis to cut costs, said they were unprepared to increase production to secure food supplies for the duration of the lockdown.

“Imported raw mats (materials) are held up at the port because our customs brokers cannot go to the BoC (Bureau of Customs) to file the import entries because they are not authorized to travel. They have asked BoC to just close the port out of desperation,” read PAMPI’s letter to Mr. Lopez.

“We expect that by the first week of April, our inventories will run out without adequate new production, along with those in possession of distributors/retailers. Thus, we anticipate severe shortage of our goods by mid-April,” it added.

PAMPI said that the inventory of Century Pacific Food Inc. is good for just 15 days, CDO Foodsphere Inc. has 11 days-worth of inventory, and products logged in the Manila warehouse of Virginia Foods can last up to 20 days.

Meanwhile, Velfram Foods Corp. temporarily shut its plant on Friday and the Caloocan-based King Sue plant reported it will close on Saturday.

In an order on Thursday, the DTI ensured the free movement of both food and non-food cargo across Luzon.

“If subjected to random inspection (with cargo before delivery or empties after delivery), the movement of cargoes shall not be delayed, upon presentation of the cargo manifest or delivery receipt indicating the destination, nature, and quantity of the loaded goods/cargoes,” the letter to Mr. Lopez read.

PAMPI told BusinessWorld that the letter is “not meant for public consumption” and was just meant “to convey our industry’s concerns in the light of current supply constraints.”

“While there are indeed difficulties in replenishing our stocks of canned and processed goods, nobody is really prepared for a crisis of this proportion. And while we do encounter problems at the checkpoints, ongoing talks with the DTI as well as other govt agencies prove to be very fruitful,” said the statement to BusinessWorld.

“Though the inventory levels of canned goods manufacturers went down the past two days, we are continuously being allowed to produce so we are hopeful that we will recover,” it assured.

“We appeal to the LGU’s to please observe the guidelines set by the IATF [Inter-Agency Task Force] to expedite the movement of our people, our goods and the raw materials needed to produce them.

“So there is no reason to panic. Our companies are working day and night to put food on the table while making sure our people are safe.” — Adam J. Ang