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Duterte recommends increasing pork imports with lower tariffs

President Rodrigo Duterte recommended more pork imports with lower tariffs as inflation soars amid the pandemic.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Friday, March 26, confirmed that Duterte wants to increase the minimum access volume (MAV) for pork by 350,000 metric tons, on top of the current MAV of 54,210 MT for 2021.

"This is to immediately augment the supply of pork, stabilize increasing prices, and address the pressing issues on food security," Roque said.

Pork imports under MAV are only taxed 10%, while imports outside of the allocation are taxed at 30%.

The proposal, first backed by the Department of Agriculture, is part of other measures to bring prices down, such as the current price cap on pork and sending more pork from provinces to Manila. (READ: Infection, inflation: Philippine economy in ‘worrisome state’)

However, despite local importation and the price ceiling, inflation in February soared to a two-year high of 4.7%.

Local hog raisers earlier slammed the proposal to lower tariffs, noting that it would only hurt the local industry.

"For a change, the DA should prioritize local producers. Sobra-sobra na sa ginhawa ang processors, importers, at traders (The perks for processors, importers, and traders are already too much)," said Rosendo So, chairperson of Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura.

Senators also questioned this move and instead adopted a resolution urging the DA to recommend to the President to declare a state of national calamity due to African swine fever.

Senator Francis Pangilinan warned that certain quarters stand to earn kickbacks if the increase in MAV pushes through.

"You know how much 400 million kilos is if its landed cost is at $2 or $3? That's $1.2 billion worth of imports! Ang laking pera, tapos papatungan (That's already a huge sum, then you would add grease money)," said Pangilinan in a Rappler Talk interview.

"So who's pushing for lowering the tariffs and increasing the volume? So somebody, you know, is gonna make a killing...at the expense of our local hog industry. We are concerned about this," the senator added. – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.

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