DA probes surge in pork prices for possible collusion

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The Department of Agriculture (DA) is now investigating a possible collusion among hog traders to withhold the release of pork products in the market, which caused prices to jack up.

 Citing data from the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), the DA noted that there is a significant inventory of both locally-slaughtered and imported pork in cold storage facilities accredited by the NMIS.

As of the third week of October 2020, the inventory of frozen pork, both local and imported, in NMIS-accredited cold storages nationwide was bigger by 55% than the same period in 2019, at 38,216 metric tons (MT), the DA said.

The inventory of frozen local and imported dressed chicken and chicken parts was 260% higher at 83,266 MT compared to 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,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said.

“Also, we should convince our countrymen to consume more chicken in lieu of pork as source of meat protein,” Dar said.

The Agriculture chief stressed the DA will not hesitate to file cartel charges if hog growers and traders were found engaging in anti-competitive practice and restricting 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,” Dar said.

As of October 21, prices of kasim or pork ham reached P320 per kilo and liempo or pork belly at P360 per kilo in most Metro Manila public markets, P20 to P40 more compared to P300 and P320, respectively, two weeks ago.

The Cabinet official said the DA is 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 (PCC) to also conduct a parallel probe for possible violation of the Philippine Competition Act by traders who 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. —KG, GMA News

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