Local hog growers: No shortage of pork supply

May 14, 2012 at 10:42 am Leave a comment

Saying meat smugglers and their protectors are the economic saboteurs, hog and chicken growers lashed back at the “unnamed” leaders of the Alliance of Food Processors (AFP) for accusing them of economic sabotage when they only wanted the government to address the unabated smuggling of misdeclared meat.

Clarifying points raised by the food processors group, the hog raisers reiterated that the illegal importation of misdeclared meat is threatening the livelihood of backyard farmers and agricultural workers in allied trades.

Aside from threatening the survival of the local industry, the smugglers are also depriving the government billions of pesos in much-needed revenues, they said.

“We want to protect the interest and survival of the local hog and poultry industries which are facing extinction due to unabated smuggling of pork and chicken by unscrupulous importers,” declared Rosendo So, chairman of Abono Party-List and convenor of the Swine Development Council.

“We implore the government to go after unscrupulous importers who are engaged in technical smuggling. We are neither blackmailing the government nor are we engaged in economic sabotage,” he said.

The SDC executive emphasized that it is the crooked importers, in connivance with the corrupt customs and agriculture personnel, who are the ones sabotaging the economy because they do not only deprive the government of billions of pesos in revenues, but they also causing the collapse of the local growers, including the allied industries.

“Accusing us of engaging in economic sabotage is not only unfair but uncalled for. We just want to protect the local industries from unfair trade practices of unscrupulous meat importers. They are the real economic saboteurs,” he lamented.

Pork and poultry producers also belied allegation that the sector is out to blackmail the government for threatening to hold a 5-day pork holiday if it does not make good of its commitment to address the problem of rampant smuggling of meat.

It’s a legitimate concern, not blackmail, industry leaders said. “How do you blackmail a government that is supposed to be with a popular mandate and will to reform.”

“Surely we want attention. But only because many of our backyard members have started closing shop and (smuggling) has threatened our livelihood for the longest time, But we will not resort to extortion to secure our business if that is what another group is claiming,” National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc. Daniel Javellana, Jr. said, in a statement.

So noted that the government has been losing P3.7 billion in annual revenues due to technical smuggling of pork and chicken where unscrupulous importers misdeclare their importations to avoid paying higher tariff of 40-percent.

“We are not opposing the import of meat if they pay the proper taxes. What we are opposing is the technical smuggling by those who import offal but inside is actually prime cuts that should have been levied with 40 percent,” the SDC official stressed. “We just want the government to put in place mechanisms not only to protect the local industries but to level the playing field as well.”

The SDC official also debunked the allegation of the Alliance of Food Producers that they were blackmailing the government when they threatened to declare pork and chicken holiday to protest its failure to stop illegal importation of misdeclared meat.

So assured that there is no shortage in the supply of pork meat, saying even the Department of Agriculture and Malacanang earlier said that there is enough supply of pigs and chicken.

However, he complained that the technical smugglers are able to avail of the lower tariff of 5% of offal by declaring prime meat as such. The prime meat cut is typically hidden behind offal, or innards which are used by food manufacturers as extenders, he noted.

“The illegal importation have killed 20 percent of the P25-billion backyard industry and not paying the proper tariff to the government,” So pointed out.

He also downplayed claims that below par processes in the country are the culprit for local hog raisers diminishing income.

“It’s not true. We also have auto-feeders. We can compete with other countries in the processing of our products,” he stressed.

Besides, So explained that, in other countries, farmers are even subsidized by the state. The local farmers did not receive subsidies and yet were losing because they were forced to sell at a loss when the imported meat, which did not pay the correct levies, could sell their products at a much lower price, dragging the local prices down.

This unconscionable practice had been causing undue hardships especially on small time raisers who are usually agricultural families relying on their produce to send their children to school.

Javellana said that the livestock sector might hold the planned “pork/poultry holiday” in abeyance due to “the good reception” of the Bureau of Customs and the Department of Agriculture.

“It (blackmail or economic sabotage) is an idea that is beyond farfetched. It is absurd. We are not violating any laws should be decide to hold the pork holiday anytime. It is the importers who have gone bad, here. But I will not name names,” said ProPork Association president Edwin Chen.

He underscored the fact that there is a great discrepancy in the price of landed pork from the actual price in the country of origin.

Imported pork is usually priced $3 to $4 per kilo. However, importers are declaring only as much as $0.80 per kilo in their proforma manifest, said Chen.

“ We are in the same boat. We all have our livelihood to protect but we can be more effective if work together. We are not against importation. We are against smuggling. We’re only after fair competition. This is what we want,” he said.

Even poultry raisers lead by the United Broiler and Raisers Association (UBRA) tagged as unfair the accusation of the Alliance of Food Processors, Providers & Stakeholders that the pork and poultry sector plans to blackmail the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Customs to give in to their demands by holding a pork/poultry holiday.

The hog and poultry raisers described as unsubstantiated claim of the meat processors and importers that there is an ongoing shortage of pork in the country due to undersized pigs that have been affected by the so-called porcine diarrhea.

“For the past months, did the Department of Agriculture mention any outbreak?” industry leaders asked.

According to them, the low price of pork at the farm gate level is proof that there is no shortage of pork in the country.

“In fact, we still have around 2 million kilos of pork in cold storage,” Chen said.

Aside from So, Javellana and Chen, other industry leaders – Agap Party-list Rep. Nicanor M. Briones, and Gregorio A. San Diego Jr., president of United Broiler Raisers Association (UBRA) — also warned that if smuggling of meat is not stopped, it would also affect other allied farm industries such as corn, coconut, rice, cassava, fisheries, feedmillers, among others.

“Also affected by the collapse of the pork and chicken industries are the market vendors, slaughterhouses, veterinary medicines and pharmaceutical products and most of all the backyard hog raising sectors, who raise pigs purportedly to be sold every time there is households’ financial needs, such as to pay the tuition fees of their children and other emergencies,” they said.

Rep. Briones, for his part, explained that the Bureau of Customs is yet to make a substantial success in its crackdown on meat smugglers and dared the agency to prosecute a big time smuggler of meat to show its sincerity to address the problem.

Briones has said much of the technical smuggling exploits a loophole where smugglers misdeclared a meat importation as offal or livestock innards which are charged a lower tariff than imported prime meat parts.

Chen urged on the government to “purge the list of meat importers of dummy corporations.” “How can a corporation with a P30,000 capitalization earn up to P 13 million a month.” he lamented.

The hog raisers said they also welcome Agriculture Secretary Alcala’s decision to hold in abeyance the implementation of Administrative Order 5 and 6, which we considered as “undemocractic” and “oppressive” because the two issuances favor only the meat importers, but detrimental to the local hog and poultry raisers.

So warned that “for as long as the mechanisms and policies intended to check rampant smuggling are not in place, we remain vigilant and steadfast and our option to go on “national pork and chicken holiday” remains.”

“We call on the Aquino government to show its sincerity to protect the hog and poultry industries by not only going after “unscrupulous importers” engaged in massive “technical smuggling”, but also by scrapping Administrative Order No. 5 and 6, which deals on the hygienic handling of newly slaughtered meat and handling of chilled, frozen and thawed meat in the markets,” the stakeholders said, in a statement.

The two issuances ease out the local growers because they were adopted in consultation with importers of meat, but not with local hog raisers.

Industry players, who are hoping for an audience with the President, urged the Aquino administration to provide adequate protection for the local industries from being obliterated by globalization, unscrupulous importers and corrupt Customs and Agriculture personnel.

“The government’s policy of allowing massive importation of pork and meat, despite adequacy of supply must be stopped because it has actually deprived the government billions of pesos in customs and tariff duties because they pay only 5 % tariff instead of 40 percent,” they said.

This policy of the Aquino administration is not only hurting the livestock industry, but may also pave the way for its eventual collapse because it effectively allows rampant smuggling and massive importation of pork and chicken, according to them.

During a recent meeting between Agriculture Secretary Alcala, Commissioner Ruffy Biazon and the SDC officials, the BOC agreed to give the DA a hand in regulating the importation of meat by requiring the Bureau of Customs to automatically forward importers’ Inward Foreign Manifest (IFM) to allow the DA to inspect the importations against underdeclaration and misdeclarations by unscrupulous traders.

“We welcome this development. But we also want 100 percent inspection of offal be done inside the Customs – this is only 25 containers a day. At present, the full inspection is being done outside of the Customs area. This must be stopped,” So stressed. ###

Entry filed under: News.

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