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House probe sought on rising pork prices

A resolution calling for a congressional inquiry into the rising pork prices, which reached around P400 per kilo, has been filed at the House of Representatives.

In filing the resolution yesterday, Marikina City Rep. Stella Quimbo said the year-on-year inflation rate for meat rose to 9.95 percent in December 2020 from 8.15 percent in November 2020.

Quimbo noted that the 60-day price freeze on basic agricultural and fishery products imposed in November 2020 was unable to keep prices from increasing, adding that another round of price freezes would be proposed by the Department of Agriculture to arrest the spike in the prices of pork and poultry products.

“Imposing price ceilings on pork products in the midst of a shortage will only further disincentivize suppliers that are already struggling from the challenges imposed by recent calamities,” she said.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar earlier said the country is experiencing a calamity due to soaring prices brought about by the ongoing cases of African swine fever (ASF), successive typhoons that hit the country, and potential price manipulation among traders and resellers.

Quimbo said the investigation would also evaluate the effectiveness of the current measures undertaken by the government to curb and resolve the crisis hounding hog-raising and trading of pork and identify appropriate solutions to improve the state of the industry.

She said one effective solution to facilitate fair pieces to suppliers and consumers is to aggressively control the ASF outbreak among farm animals and to encourage investments in the industry to improve pork supply in the long term.

“Pork suppliers have urged for improved enforcement against the smuggling of pork, particularly as smuggled pork has been found to be infected with ASF and continued smuggling poses the continued risk of exposure for domestic supply,” she said.

She said meat processors have also clamored for the scrapping of duties on imported pork as a means to keep pork prices in check.

“Reduced tariffs benefit downstream firms and consumers but may adversely impact local hog raisers if they are unable to face tougher competition from imported meat; hence, additional government support may be necessary to assist hog raisers in avoiding ASF and in improving their productivity levels,” she said.

She said skyrocketing prices in the industry may also be caused by anti-competitive conduct, such as collusion among traders, which could keep wholesale and retail pork prices high while keeping hog farmgate prices low.

The DA Monday warned unscrupulous traders and manipulators that they will be fined as high as P100 million if they are found sowing a false shortage of agricultural commodities, such as pork, chicken, fish, and vegetables, or manipulating their prices.

Dar said a sub-task group on economic intelligence was created by Inter-Agency on Food Security that will investigate and file charges against individuals or organizations floating the idea that there is a food shortage.*PNA

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