Pork import, yes; rice import, no


FAIR COMMENT | Alito L. Malinao

Importation per se is bad not only for the sectors to be affected but also for the economy. No country in the world could prosper if it depends only on importation.

For example, in the Rice Tariffication Law of 2019 that has removed the quantitative restrictions for rice imports in exchange of tariffs, only the rice traders are getting rich while the farmers are getting poorer and poorer.

The positive effect of the rice importation, though, is that consumers were able to save some P20 billion because they can buy cheaper rice in the market. But rice farmers lost an estimated P60 billion in income from the enactment of the law.

On top of that, some 4,000 rice mills have shut down and an estimated 200,000 farmers have abandoned their farms because tilling their farms could no longer support their families due to the big drop in the farm gate price of their produce.

Now the government has allowed the importation of pork under Executive Order No. 128, and also reduced the tariffs on pork imports from a high of 40 percent to just 5 percent.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar justified the pork importation because of the shortage of pork and pork products in the market during the last few months. He said that there is a projected pork shortage of around 388,000 metric tons this year and this is what the DA is going to fill up with the importation.

Some senators are saying that EO 128 would kill the hog industry. Unlike the Rice Tariffication Law EO 128 is only temporary. President Duterte himself has assured the senators that the EO will be recalled as soon as the price of pork in the market would stabilize.

There is a big difference in pork importation and rice importation since the former is allowed only through an executive order while the latter is mandated by law which was duly passed by Congress.

The hog industry

How to stabilize the market would depend on whether the hog industry can recover soonest and be able to flood the market with their produce.

As part of its hog repopulation program, the Department of Agriculture (DA), along with local governments, has begun distributing “sentinel pigs” to farms in selected areas across eight regions to help determine if the deadly African swine fever (ASF) virus has been completely eradicated.

The DA has poured in P400 million for the ‘sentinelling” project which is part of the P2.4-billion budget it received for its swine repopulation program. Those who receive sentinel pigs are also entitled to free feeds, veterinary drugs, biologics and antiviral agents during the six-month fattening period.

The local hog industry has lost around P80 billion since August due to ASF. Nineteen provinces, 160 cities and municipalities and 625 barangays were hit by the swine disease.

We hope that eventually, the country’s hog raisers can produce enough pork for the local market and thus we can do away with pork importation.
We also hope that instead of wasting their time in assailing EO 128, our honorable senators should work in amending or scrapping the Rice Tariffication Law in order to save our rice farmers from extinction.

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