October 30, 2021

The possibility of loosening limits for the selling of imported pork is being considered.

Authorities are considering loosening limits on the sale of imported pork across the country, citing high inflation outside of the National Capital Region (NCR) due to supply shortages.

This comes as the rate of pork price hikes outside of the National Capital Region (NCR) continues to exceed the government’s 2 percent to 4% objective, owing to supply challenges brought on by African swine disease (ASF).

“One reason for this is that certain of these imported supplies are not allowed to be sold elsewhere, particularly in the wet markets.” So, this is something that we believe should be softened so that more people may benefit,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said during a virtual briefing on Thursday hosted by the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines.

After higher imports boosted domestic swine supplies, Chua said pork inflation in the NCR has decelerated to within the government’s goal zone.

Prior to this, he claimed, pork inflation rose by about 60% in the middle of this year.

He noted that this was the basis for the issuing of Executive Orders in May, which increased the minimum access volume for imported pork and ordered a temporary reduction in tariff rates to boost domestic supply.

Pork inflation has dropped to almost 30% since the supply deficit was rectified, according to Chua.

According to Chua, the Department of Agriculture has authorized a proposal to increase fish imports to solve a likely supply shortage during the close fishing season, which runs from November to February.

“Our top aim is to ensure that all 111 million Filipinos can afford to eat. At the same time, our top aim is to assist farmers, fishers, and livestock producers in increasing their productivity. So we’re taking a two-pronged strategy,” he explained.

The rate of inflation has been rising since the fourth quarter of 2020, peaking at 4.9 percent last August.

Inflation averaged 4.5 percent in the first nine months of this year.

The influence of weather-related variables on food supply is projected to keep inflation elevated, although it is expected to decelerate to within-target levels by the end of the year.

Aside from food inflation, another element driving up inflation is the international market’s ongoing rise in oil costs.

Oil is currently trading for more than USD80 a barrel on the global market.

“Whether it’s a transitory or permanent event, our policy reaction should be measured,” Chua added.

He said that the government has a PHP3-billion service contracting budget, which he stated should be “completely used to help public utility vehicles.”

According to Chua, economic managers boosted this budget by PHP1 billion in 2012 and 2018 to implement the Pantawid Pasada program, a cash subsidy scheme for public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers and operators.

He also stated that authorities are now assessing the seating capacity of PUVs, which is currently at 50%.

“Of course, they don’t make as much money,” he added, “but with more people vaccinated and fewer cases of Covid-19 (coronavirus illness 2019), I believe there is a chance to evaluate the seating capacity.”

While allowing a higher number of jeepneys or bus seating capacity may raise the risk of Covid-19 spread, Chua explained that “the same people are falling in line in the bus station waiting for a bus and also crowding the bus station.”

“And as the data evolves, which means in the following weeks,” he added, “we will be able to better understand whether this is transitory or permanent, and we will re-calibrate our policy to support the industry.”

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