The poultry sector has opposed Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Animal Industry’s recommendation for more poultry imports as this “bizaare” policy is against upholding Filipino farmers’ welfare and is in contrast to President Rodrigo Duterte’s stance to boost local food production.
It is strange that BAI is asking Filipino poultry producers to limit their production in order to “give way” to foreign producers.
In an open letter to Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William D. Dar, the United Broilers and Raisers’ Association (UBRA), supported by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc (PCAFI), has dismissed the claim of BAI that poultry imports are too “minimal” to hurt Filipino producers.
BAI is an attached agency of DA.
“Imports are not a ‘mere threat.’ But it has caused actual damage in the last 25 years. The volume of imports need not be overwhelming to cause damage. It only takes a relatively minimal volume to move farmgate prices from profit to loss as agricultural products are commodities,” said UBRA.
The open letter was signed by UBRA Chairman Gregorio San Diego and Lawyer Elias Jose M. Inciong, UBRA president. San Diego and Inciong stressed the letter is for “information on the challenges involved in the reform of the (DA-BAI) system.”
Private farm sector group PCAFI lamented that DA hardly listened to the voice of Filipino poultry raisers.
“PCAFI fully supports the complaint sent to Secretary Dar which is apparently not taken with serious attention and without considering the plight of the poultry industry. Food production is the main focus of the economic managers to recover from COVID-19. But the people of DA recommendi the opposite in favor of foreign producers,” said PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto.
Even more ironic, DA is supporting foreign farmers that are fully supported by their governments.
“Prices of imports are low because these come from countries with subsidized agricultural system.”
The Foreign Agricultural Service of the United States DA placed Philippines’ poultry imports at an increasing rate from 320,000 metric tons (MT) in 2018 to 345,000 MT in 2019, and 390,000 MT in 2020.
UBRA and PCAFI officials were invited to a virtual meeting last June 4 by DA-BAI regarding meat supply with high expectation that their pleading for suspension of poultry imports will be supported.
They petitioned last May 4 for the immediate suspension of imports of poultry meat and poultry products.
Unfortunately, the virtual meeting turned to be extremely frustrating as BAI asked the local poultry raisers to “self regulateand limit local production.”
“In the kindest possible terms, this is one of the most bizaare thinking that ever emanated from DA. The incongruence is glaring. At a time when the secretary of DA, together with the economic managers, is encouraging local production, BAI is telling a key industry to limit production in order to give space to imports,” said San Diego and Inciong.
Oddly, while BAI intends to deprive local poultry raisers of a better market right in the Philippines, it suggests to Filipino poultry to rather explore “exports.”
“It is disappointing, to say the least, that BAI is pretending to be unaware of the competitive international market dominated by the United States, Brazil, and Thailand.”
BAI, together with the National Meat Inspection System (NMIS), has gained prominence in accrediting importers and foreign meat establishments as suppliers with alacrity.”
BAI never at all presented any serious plan to support exports.
“For exports to happen, an ecosystem must be established with the cooperation of government, academe, and private sector.”
The private farm associations believe DA should have more competent animal industry officials who have the compassion and empathy for the plight of Filipino poultry raisers.
“If the grievance lodged by UBRA is not immediately acted upon, I think Secretary Dar should find somebody else who can implement his vision and action plan for Philippine agriculture and follow the direction of President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic managers,” said Fausto.
These are the other reforms asserted by UBRA-PCAFI:
- Urgent need for decentralization of functions at DA-BAI
- Reformatting of systems to simplify collection of tariffs and duties and simplify its reporting
- Address undervaluation through methods allowed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the regular comparison and publication of the composition and volume of exports. This will compare data of BAI and Bureau of Customs. This minimizes misdeclaration of products.
- Conduct studies on trade remedies not only for poultry and livestock sector but the entire agriculture sector
- Establish confidence in the trading of chicken meat by addressing alleged abuses in the implementation of Customs Bonded Warehouse 0% tariff privileges. BAI and NMIS have not presented data on this for many years.
- Implement the Cold Chain-Ready Quarantine Facilities at Customs Border so that inspection can be done before the payment of tariffs and duties. The so called Second Border is a failure as it is a sham. The system is below international standards and has caused entry of diseases such as African swine flu, bird flu, and the smuggling of prohibited products like poultry products of China.
- Support for the corn sector and access to affordable yellow corn and feeds when there are no corn harvests. This is also to support poultry and livestock sectors that depends largely on feed for competitiveness.
- Address disconnect between farmgate and retail price through strict enforcement of the Price Act and a consumer subsidy program similar to that in the United States Farm Bill.
“The need for reforms in DA and BAI is acute. These reforms have never been more urgent than in the time of COVID 19. These will assure stakeholders in the agriculture and fisheries sector that they will at last be given the chance to succeed and make a difference in the lives of people,” said San Diego and Inciong. Melody Mendoza Aguiba