Philippine meat imports in January to May declined by 16.33 percent as local traders were discouraged from buying more expensive meat products from abroad.
Government data obtained by the BusinessMirror showed that meat imports during the five-month period reached 224,637.742 metric tons (MT), lower than the 268,508.335 MT recorded last year.
Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) Assistant Director Simeon S. Amurao Jr. said local traders slashed their purchases after international prices went up due to lower global supply.
“Only a few traders are applying for import permits compared to last year. This is still caused by the high price of meat abroad, which has not changed since the start of the year,” Amurao told the BusinessMirror in an interview.
Meat Importers and Traders Association President Jesus C. Cham said the decline in meat imports is caused by a “confluence of events”.
“We’re seeing a confluence of events that impact negatively on imports—high prices abroad, weak peso, volatile foreign exchange and bans on imports,” Cham told the BusinessMirror.
“Prices are still trending higher, but increases are not as high as before. Hopefully, prices are already peaking,” he added.
BAI data showed that pork purchased abroad accounted for almost half, or 47 percent, of total meat imports during the period. The country’s pork imports declined by 13.65 percent to 105,625.949 MT, from 122,328.647 MT a year ago.
The bulk of pork imports during the period were offals, which accounted for 43 percent of the total volume. Purchases of pork offals abroad reached 45,694.792 MT, 12.35 percent lower than the 52,136.676 MT recorded last year.
The government has earlier encouraged importers to bring in more imported pork to stabilize local prices by cutting the tariff.
In April the Department of Agriculture (DA) approved the special importation of 7 million kilograms of pork slapped with a 30-percent tariff instead of the usual 40 percent. This covers only prime cuts of pork and not other parts, such as offal.
Data from the attached agency of the DA also showed that chicken was the second-most bought meat from abroad, accounting for 31.85 percent of total imports.
Chicken-meat imports during the period reached 71,561.010 MT, lower than the 92,331.862 MT imported in January to May 2016. This is due to the decision of Manila to restrict the entry of chicken meat from traditional sources.
Since the start of 2017, the DA has temporarily banned the importation of poultry and poultry products from various European countries with reported outbreaks of bird flu, including the Netherlands—one of the major sources of mechanically deboned meat (MDM) of chicken.
Chicken MDM is a raw material used by meat processors. Data from the BAI showed that chicken MDM imports went down by 31.35 percent to 52,524.389 MT in January to May, from 68,991.967 MT last year.
In March Cham told the BusinessMirror the price of MDM in the international market rose by at least 40 percent due to the tightness in supply caused by the bird-flu outbreaks in Europe.
The government issues a temporary ban on poultry products from countries where there are outbreaks of bird flu to protect the domestic poultry population.
The Philippines is one of the few Southeast Asian countries that remain free from the avian influenza virus.
Data from the BAI also showed that the volume of beef and meats of buffalo, lamb and turkey was lower in January to May.
Turkey-meat imports fell by 42.12 percent to 650.642 MT, from 1,124.358 MT last year.
Purchases of imported lamb meat and buffalo meat went down by 35.20 percent and 33.53 percent, respectively. Lamb-meat imports reached 259.319 MT, while buffalo-meat imports amounted to 10,976.940 MT.
The volume of beef imports declined slightly to 35,491.212 MT from 35,743.552 MT recorded in the first five months of 2016.
Last week the DA has started lifting the import bans slapped on some European countries.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol issued Memorandum Orders 27 and 28 authorizing the lifting of the ban from Girona, Spain and the Netherlands.
The DA lifted the ban after the BAI said the risk of contamination from importing poultry and poultry products from these areas is now “negligible”.
Spain and the Netherlands earlier notified the World Organisation for Animal Health that the outbreaks of the highly pathogenic avian influenza in affected areas have already been resolved.