The country’s meat imports from January to October expanded 6.39 percent to 509,380.12 metric tons (MT), from 478,771.32 MT a year ago, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI).
Data from the BAI obtained by the BusinessMirror showed that the bulk of meat imports during the period, or 42.6 percent, were pork. Pork imports from January to October grew 7.47 percent to 216,993.62 MT, from 201,913.82 MT recorded in the same period last year.
BAI data showed that lamb imports posted the highest increase among all meat products during the period. The country’s lamb purchases rose 15.04 percent to 601.94 MT, from 523.23 MT a year ago.
According to BAI data, chicken and beef imports also recorded year-on-year increases. Purchases of chicken from abroad rose by 12.48 percent to 183,837.63 MT, while beef imports went up by 3.67 percent to 74,756.94 MT.
In contrast, the BAI said buffalo-, turkey- and duck-meat imports declined in the January-to-October period.
Duck-meat imports recorded the biggest drop at 41.3 percent. Shipments of duck meat reached 153.73 MT, from the 261.88 MT recorded a year ago.
Meat imports in the January- to-October period was the highest since 2010, BAI figures showed. In 2010 meat imports in the 10-month period reached 329,906.74 MT; 408,741.67 MT in 2011; 346,912.8 MT in 2012; 388,135.06 MT in 2013; and 452,194.533 MT in 2014.
Purchases of imported meat this year also surpassed the total meat imports from 2009 to 2013, according to BAI data.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) said these figures were “alarming enough” to warrant amendments in the rules for issuing import permits.
“The increase in meat imports is one of the reasons the Department of Agriculture [DA] is reviewing the sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances [SPS-ICs],” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol told the BusinessMirror.
“We don’t even know how much pork or chicken we really need to fill up local demand, or if we need more than the minimum access volume [MAV],” Piñol added.
While meat importation has become a source of livelihood for some stakeholders in the agriculture sector, the DA chief said this should not reach a point where the imports could hurt local meat producers.
In late November the DA released Memorandum Circular (MC) 5, which authorized the review of the validity of all SPS-ICs to curb smuggling.
Piñol issued MC 5 after he received reports that there was a “huge” discrepancy between the data of the BAI and the United Nations on the volume of imported meat in the country.
Local traders are allowed by the government to import meat products under the MAV scheme of the World Trade Organization.
However, Jesus C. Cham, president of the Meat Importers and Traders Association, said the increase in meat imports does not mean that there is smuggling.
“Definitely no smuggling because these are all captured in the system, meaning all [meat imports] passed quarantine and were inspected,” Cham told the BusinessMirror.
He said the growth in meat imports could be attributed to the growing demand in the local market.
Image credits: Bloomberg News