Philippines - Hog raisers to close farms in 12 months

Date of publication : 8/11/2004
Source : Sun Star
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Swine producers and hog raisers all over the country are to shut down all their farms in twelve months in the face of alleged indifference of the government to their plight. Instead, they will join the foreign and local investors in the importation of dressed and processed pork meat. "We are raising the white flag. This doesn't mean, however, that our consumer will miss their favorite pork delicacy," the South Cotabato Swine Producers Association (Socospa) said in a statement. Socospa president James Chua however warned that the apparent reluctance of the government to stop importation of meat would affect the livelihood of more than 250,000 workers directly dependent on the livestock industry. The hog raisers asked the government to "put in place shock absorbers to reduce the effects" of the massive retrenchment in livestock industry. In addition, the phasing out of livestock farm could have serious implication in the country's agricultural production. Corn and copra producers including fish meal millers would also be affected by the move of hog raisers to shut down their farms. In General Santos City alone, which supplies 30 per cent of the hog requirement of Metro Manila, the death of the P1.2 billion hog industry could have serious implications in the local economy. General Santos City ships 20,000 heads of hogs to Manila every month and corn farmers in the Socsksargen area are dependent on these hog farms as market of their produce. Chua said they have no other choice but give up their businesses. "We have been losing money since Arroyo allowed the massive importation of pork and other meats for processing," Chua told Sun.Star in an exclusive interview Tuesday. Chua explained that they cold no longer continue to produce swine and hogs without passing the burden to the consumers. Many hog raisers have reportedly began exploring joint ventures with foreign investors who are poised to invade the local meat market. "Hog raisers will now advocate for the lowering of tariffs to zero once the pig farms are gone," Chua also said. Industry sources said government officials close to Malacañang are pushing for the entry of foreign investors in the lucrative meat industry. The country reportedly will be importing $1.2 billion worth of dressed meat if all the pig farms are phased out within the year. Hog raisers urge gov’t to impose P83 per kilo farmgate floor price Swine raisers are urging the government to impose a farmgate floor price of at least P83 per kilo for their produce after the price again plunged to as low as P70 per kilo. Nicanor Briones, president of the Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines (ASAP), said his group, comprised of various cooperatives and associations of backyard swine raisers nationwide, made the appeal amid the high cost of pork in the markets which he blamed anew on haulers and retailers. "While swine producers have been selling their live produce at ‘farmgate’ prices of as low as P70 per kilo, pork is retailed in wet markets at prices ranging from P130 to P135 per kilo," he said. Briones said the production cost of swine these days is about P78 per kilo, but backyard raisers are compelled to sell their hogs for as low as P70 per kilo amid fears that farmgate prices would even go lower. "The problem is that the government has no price control of pork and the haulers and retailers are the only ones profiting from the swine industry by selling pork for as much as P135 per kilo in the market," he said. In the past, he said haulers and retailers add only P20 each to the farmgate price of swine for their profit. Despite the high demand for pork at least among food processors, Briones said farmgate prices have been dropping due to competition from lower-priced Indian carabeef whose importation reportedly rose by 40 percent this year. "Carabeef from India is supposed to be used only by food processors but it continues to flood wet markets," Briones said. He said food processors now even want the government to push through with the importation of some 5,000 metric tons (MT) of pork with tariffs reduced to only 10 percent. Early this year, swine raisers did not block the importation of 5,000 MT of pork with only 10 percent tariff to prevent a shortage of pork and a rise in its prices in the market. "We will let pigs loose in the Malacañang area in a protest action if the government grants the demand of food processors to import another 5,000 MT of pork with the lowered 10 percent tariff," Briones told The STAR in a phone interview. He said his group, whose members traditionally account for 77 percent of the domestic pork supply, has allocated some P2 million for the protest action. Earlier, the Pampanga Association of Meat Processors Inc. (Pampro) requested Mala—cañang to allow the importation of some 10,000 MT of pork with tariff of only 10 percent instead of the usual 30 to 40 percent, amid a shortage of local pork. Hog raisers, however, blocked this but agreed to limit importation to only 5,000 MT up to last June 7. Now, the food processors are asking the government to allow them to import the remaining 5,000 MT, but so far their request has not been granted. Last week, Pampro officials met with hog producers in Mindanao to seek more suppliers, but the swine raisers there could supply them with only 250 heads daily. Meat processors in Pampanga need about 1,500 heads daily to cope with the demand for their products. "We will definitely object to more importation of pork because that is a mere palliative measure to bring down pork prices. What we need is a long-term solution in strengthening the local swine industry by helping those who produce feeds," he said. Briones lamented that importations would only further discourage backyard raisers. "It’s an erroneous cycle of importation and shortage because of the lack of support for the production factors in the swine industry," he said. "The problem with relying on imports is that once the prices abroad also go up or when the supply from foreign countries falls short, we would be helpless," he added. Briones urged the government to fully support farmers of corn and soya which constitute 75 percent of swine feeds. He said the price of corn has gone up from P9 per kilo to P12, and soya from P12 to P22.
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