September 26, 2008

Philippine meat processors protest ban on pork imports


Meat processors in the country have protested the government's ban on pork importation, stating that this could severely affect the supply of meat products in the coming holiday season.


The Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (PAMPI) said that it sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap on September 23, requesting for the immediate lifting of the suspension of imports of pork manufacturing-grade parts.


Last September 16, Yap instructed the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) to halt the issuance of veterinary quarantine clearance or VCQ for pork import applications, despite pressures from Congressman Nicanor Briones and an influential group of hog raisers.


Briones blamed the presence of imported pork in the wet markets for a large inventory of 50,000 to 60,000 oversized hogs, amid a lack of market demand.


PAMPI said they are disappointed with the Department of Agriculture's "unilateral and immediate reaction to this allegation without a benefit of consultation on confrontation with importers and processors who are users of imported pork parts."


The meat processors said the immediate suspension of pork importation took effect without conducting a dialogue between PAMPI members and the hog raisers, or the DA and BAI, or among the three parties.


PAMPI said "it is fearful to think that the DA would actually decide to sacrifice the meat processing industry so that you could submit to the pressures that Congressman Briones and the hog raisers have applied upon the department."


PAMPI claimed that the suspension of VCQ for pork importation has affected the delivery of manufacturing-grade parts needed by the meat processing industry, including pork bellies, fats, offals, and skin/rind.


Data from the BAI show as of September 13, pork imports reached 83,454 tonnes, compared to the 12-month importation of 79,381 tonnes in 2007.


PAMPI said that while the pork import volume this year appeared quite high, this cannot be traced to the importation of manufacturing-grade pork parts.


The association said importation of manufacturing grade pork parts "are not unreasonably high compared to 2007 volumes, except for bellies which has become scarce in local supply, forcing us to depend on imported sources to support the increased demand of bacons."


As of August 30, imports of pork bellies reached 6,503,480 kilos this year, against 3,343,918 kilos in August 2007.


PAMPI said what contributed to the surge in pork importation this year was the increase in the shipments of "cuts".


However, the group contested this claim, noting that importation of cuts reached 23,761,236 kilos as of August 2008, against 4,963,011 kilos in August 2007.


PAMPI asked the government to reduce, if not suspend the importation of pork cuts, while allowing the uninterrupted sourcing of manufacturing grade parts for bellies, deboned pork parts, fats, offals, rind/skin, which are substantial raw materials for processed meat products that utilize pork-based formulations.

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