"Some lawmakers are unabashedly protecting the interest of local hog raisers at the expense of consumers, who have been trying hard to make ends meet amid these trying conditions."
Pork prices in the Philippines are rising steeply due to lack of supply as a result of the African Swine Fever that decimated the local hog population. The increased price of pork in the domestic market, in turn, is causing inflation to act up because of its weight, along with other food items, in the consumer price index.
Economic managers should be quick to sense inflationary pressures before the price spiral runs out of control and ultimately erodes the purchasing power of consumers. A simple solution in the case of deficient pork supply is to augment the market with temporary imports, similar to what the government did about two years ago when rice prices were escalating.
Some lawmakers, however, have a hard time comprehending the implications of higher inflation on the overall economy. They tend to side easily with the plight of the local hog raisers and ignore the concerns of consumers, who must weigh their marketing budget against other expenses.
President Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order No. 128 reducing the tariffs on pork imports falling within the so-called minimum access volume, from 30 percent to 5 percent during the first three months of the directive and to 10 percent in the next nine months.
The Department of Agriculture and the country’s economic managers obviously were behind EO 128, which aims to address the shortage in swine meat, stabilize the price of pork and minimize the inflation rate. The inflation rate is threatening to increase to uncomfortable levels. Food prices, in particular, rose 6 percent in February and March.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar, defended the imports and lower tariff, saying it is not aimed at killing the local hog industry (the ASF has already killed millions of pigs nationwide since 2019) but merely addressing the shortfall in pork supply this year.
Some of our lawmakers, thus, should be discreet in their arguments over the pork issue. They are unabashedly protecting the interest of local hog raisers at the expense of consumers, who have been trying hard to make ends meet amid these trying conditions.