THE Department of Agriculture (DA) has started an investigation on the possible deliberate effort by traders to withhold the release of pork products in the market, thereby causing high prices.
Based on data, there is a significant inventory of both locally slaughtered and imported pork in cold storage facilities accredited by the Department of Agriculture's National Meat Inspection Service (DA-NMIS).
As of the third week of October 2020, the inventory of frozen pork, both local and imported, in DA-NMIS-accredited cold storages nationwide was bigger by 55 percent than the same period in 2019, at 38,216 MT.
Likewise, the inventory of frozen local and imported dressed chicken and chicken parts were 260 percent more, at 83,266 MT versus 22,953MT in 2019.
"This slow drawdown or small demand for frozen meat indicates that most Filipinos prefer “fresh” or newly-slaughtered meat, or traders are holding off the supply to artificially jack up prices," said secretary William Dar.
"We should convince our countrymen to consume more chicken in lieu of pork as source of meat protein," the DA chief added.
He said the DA will not hesitate to file cartel charges if hog growers and traders were found engaging in anti-competitive practice and restricting the supply of pork products, resulting in higher prices at retail markets.
“We’re looking into reasons why there’s very slow withdrawal of frozen pork products despite the availability of supply, and demand has started to pick up as the government opens up the economy,” secretary Dar said.
As of October 21, prices of kasim (pork ham) reached P320/kg and liempo (pork belly) at P360/kg in most Metro Manila public markets, P20 to P40 more compared to P300 and P320, respectively, two weeks ago.
The DA chief said they are also looking at whether the high prices were a result of inefficiencies in the supply chain.
He said the DA will ask the Philippine Competition Commission to also conduct a parallel probe for possible violations of the Philippine Competition Act by traders that may be manipulating pork supply.
The DA has an existing agreement with the PCC on information exchange, investigation and enforcement, as well as action plans through shared resources to limit and put a stop to anti-competitive practices. (PR)