December 11, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

SINAG blames middlemen for rising prices of pork

AN AGRICULTURE lobby group said it has no control over pork retail prices during Monday discussions with the Department of Agriculture (DA) which were called to explore ways to keep pork prices in check.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol convened on Monday a meeting with hog raisers, including the agricultural umbrella group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura, Inc. (SINAG), to discuss rising pork prices, in a bid to seek their cooperation to contain prices at the retail level.

SINAG said at the meeting that final retail prices are out of the hands of hog raisers, citing the role of middlemen.

SINAG President Rosendo O. So explained that the value chain in the industry consists of layers such as viajeros (those who transport goods to market), wholesalers, traders or distributors before retailers set the final price.

“So we cannot impose price ceiling... since we are not a cartel,” Mr. So said in a SINAG statement on Monday.

SINAG said that based on the nationwide consultation conducted by the DA from September 2014 to April 2015, the difference between live hog prices at the farmgate and the retail price of pork should only be around P60/kilo covering costs like transport, handling, storage, marketing, as well as profit.

At the current farmgate price, retail price should not exceed P200/kilo and should only be at P195/kilo.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that the retail price of pork as far back as May 2014 to December 2015 ranged from P202/kilo to P212/kilo.

In a phone interview on Monday, Mr. So added that the association proposed that the Agriculture department conduct a review of the hog industry.

“The producers are not profiteering,” he said. “Between farmgate and retail the product passes through many hands.”

Sought for comment, Mr. Piñol, however, said that hog producers have agreed on a price cap.

“The price ceiling is P120/kilo [for] liveweight... the figure came from them... I asked them what the national level of live weight per kilo should be and they said P120,” the official said in a text message yesterday.

Mr. So denied agreeing to a price ceiling and that P120 per kilo was actually the current average farmgate price for pork at the national level.

Instead, the SINAG president raised to Mr. Piñol the possibility of government encouraging backyard hog raising, the largest segment of the industry but which has been declining over the past few years.

As of January, backyard hog raisers were estimated at 7,750,400, down from 7,958,930 a year earlier.

Backyard hog raisers still comprise 64% of the hog industry while commercial hog producers account for the remaining 36%.

SINAG said that tight supply, which is pulling prices up, has been a byproduct of the decline in backyard raisers since 2010. -- Janina C. Lim