THE Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) has assailed the Department of Agriculture (DA) for its continued promotion of imported pork even as the African Swine Fever (ASF) and the economic effects of lockdowns continue to ravage the local hog industry.

“Why does our agriculture department promote and support foreign agricultural products? This is insane and unacceptable,” KMP National Chairperson Danilo Ramos said.

In a project dubbed as “Presyong Risonable Dapat (PRD) Program: Frozen Meat Edition,” the DA, in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry and retail giant Robinsons, started selling imported pork products on July 29, 2021, the group claimed.

The move is limiting traders and making the imported meat product more directly available in retail, according to the KMU.

Under the program, meat products are sold at prices 30-percent lower than local markets and below the suggested retail price (SRP), the group said.

“Instead of protecting local agricultural products, Secretary Dar is grossly supporting competing foreign products. Isn’t this a violation of the DA’s mandate?” Ramos asked.

According to its website, the DA is mandated to “[promote] agricultural development by providing the policy framework, public investments, and support services needed for domestic and export-oriented business enterprises.”

The KMU said Dar was instrumental in pushing for the issuance of Executive Orders 133 and 134, which increased the country’s Minimum Access Volume for pork by 250,000 metric tons and lowered import taxes on pork.

Turning to imports was Dar’s response to the skyrocketing of local pork prices since January 2021. Local hog raisers, however, pointed to the DA’s own failure in addressing the ASF as a major cause for slumps in domestic hog production, according to Ramos. “Dar is punishing local hog raisers for his failures."

ASF continues to spread and has affected 12 regions, 50 provinces, 541 cities and municipalities, and 2,836 barangays.

With this, 33 percent of all cities and municipalities were affected by the ASF, the KMU said.

Municipalities that recovered from ASF’s entry into the country in August 2019, were only declared just this July -- almost exactly two years after, the group added.

The culling of hogs also continues as do ASF outbreaks, the latest of which was reported July 8 in Davao de Oro.

The economic impacts of lockdowns also affected Filipino pork.

Consumers' demand for pork decreased due to falling incomes and transportation costs increased.

“Dar has been too giving for imports while too madamot or stingy for poor Filipino farmers. It only covered for agricultural ayuda a measly 900,000 out of at least 9.8 million registered farmers. We support the call of Senator Grace Poe that the DA must focus on providing aid for poor farmers.” Ramos pointed out.

He claimed that pork products remain inaccessible to many. DA’s monitoring reveals that pork kasim and liempo are still at P340/kg and P370/kg, respectively. These prices are still above the P270/kg and P350/kg SRP.