Hog Raisers Decry Being Used as ‘Bargaining Chips’

by 5m Editor
27 April 2012, at 7:52am

PHILIPPINES - Hog raisers are objecting to the government’s move to use pork import tariffs as a “bargaining chip“ in international negotiations to extend the Philippines’ quantitative restrictions on rice imports.

GMA News reports that the National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc. (NFHFI) made the stance as Representative Teddy Casiño–chairman of the House committee on small business and enterprise development–warned of the adverse impact of rising pork imports on the local livestock industry.

"We appeal to (Agriculture) Secretary (Proceso) Alcala not to sacrifice our livelihood in favor of extending the protection on rice," said NFHFI spokesperson and Abono party-list chairman Rosendo So.

The swine raisers’ group and the Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines want the Department of Agriculture to restore the tariff on pork offal to 40 per cent, but the NFHFI claims the DA had offered to cut the tariff to 5 per cent.

Mr So said the DA offered the 5-per cent pork tariff during international trade talks to extend the QR on rice until 2017.

Hog farms said a 40-per cent rate would discourage pork smuggling.

National Food Authority administrator Angelito Banayo said China, Viet Nam, Pakistan and India are “most keen“ on negotiating with the Philippines on rice QRs.

Mr Banayo added that the United States, Canada, Australia, Thailand and El Salvador also intend to meet with Filipino negotiators on the rice QRs.

Seventy per cent of the country’s pork imports come from the US and Canada, Mr So noted.

The US has deplored the differing food safety and handling standards the DA has for freshly slaughtered meats.

The DA standards for fresh meat are contained in Administrative Order No. 5, while frozen meats–usually and including imported pork–are covered by AO No. 6.

"This system imposes very high standards on the handling of frozen meat, which is primarily imported, that do not apply to the handling of freshly slaughtered meat, which is exclusively domestic," the US Trade Representative said in its third annual Report on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures.

Agriculture Assistant Secretary Davinio Catbagan said in a phone interview with GMA News Online that freshly slaughtered meat and frozen meats are “different products“ requiring different food safety and handling standards.

Mr Catbagan also said the DA remains open to consultations with hog raisers even though AO 5 and AO 6 have been in effect since early April.

Rep. Casiño claimed in a statement emailed to GMA News Online that “AO 5 and AO 6 did not go through a public consultation.“

Mr Casiño also alleged that the Aquino administration is favoring imported meats over local output.

He said imported pork in 2008 was 109.36 million kgs, which increased by 48.32 percent in 2011 to 162.21 million kgs.

“Based on our consultation with local hog and poultry raisers, farm gate prices from July 2011 to February 2012 averaged P86 per kilo against production cost of P92 per kilo,“ the Bayan Muna party-list solon said.

“An estimated P8.5 billion was lost in the eight month-period, with 2.2 million hogs sold each month. With this they are operating at a loss due to the unfair advantage of imported meat,“ he added.

Mr Casiño said the DA “should at least hold a dialogue with local hog and poultry raisers to address their concerns affecting the local industry and the consuming public.“

However, Mr Catbagan said there were in fact five consultations held in Davao, Cebu and Metro Manila in 2011 and that the draft orders were published before they took effect.

“We’re not closing our doors,“ Mr Catbagan said even as he revealed that efforts are underway to schedule new meetings with stakeholders so their views may be heard.

The DA had earlier revealed that its National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) will put up a two triple-A service abattoir or slaughterhouse in Luzon this year.

Next year, NMIS will have a triple-A service slaughterhouse in Mindanao and a triple-A service poultry dressing plant in Luzon, to be followed in 2014 by a triple-A service slaughterhouse will be funded in Visayas.

The DA said these new slaughterhouses pave the way to replacing 20 per cent of annual meat imports with locally produced meat and meat products.

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