The country’s largest group of meat processing companies has called on the Department of Agriculture (DA) to reconsider its decision to cancel all meat import permits, warning that the move will raise the prices of meat products such as ham during the holidays.
In a letter sent to DA Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, the Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (PAMPI) said the cancellation of all import permits for agriculture products was ill-timed because of the oncoming holiday demand.
“Prices will be pressed hard to recover the added costs of demurrage for goods that cannot be released while awaiting the authenticity certificates. There will be added plug-on charges for refrigeration service. The delay may cause port congestion all over again. These consequences translate to higher costs of the finished products at the retail end,” PAMPI Executive Director Francisco Buencamino said in the letter.
Piñol said he cancelled all issued import permits of agricultural products, especially meat and plant products, effective November 23 in response to complaints from domestic livestock and poultry producers on the alleged recycling of import permits by some importers.
“I issued instructions for immediate cancellation of import permits, both meat and plant products, because of the persistent recycling and technical smuggling,” Piñol said.
“The only way to check this is to recall all permits issued,” he added.
The DA asked traders holding valid import permits to update their permits with the DA.
Importers are now required to secure certificates of validity and authenticity from the DA’s Office of the Secretary for the release of imported meat products by quarantine officers.
PAMPI, however, said the sweeping order only results in more bureaucratic procedures that are prone to abuse.
“By our interpretation, we are reminded of the old saying, ‘you cannot burn a whole house down just to catch a rat’ as this seems to have been the approach taken,” Buencamino said.
PAMPI said the DA’s reasons for canceling all importation permits are insufficient.
“We recommend that, at the end of the day, both industry and government ought to lock arms to fight smuggling, technical or otherwise, by discussing the issues first and discovering points of weaknesses and defaults in the system or process,” the group said.
“A general shutdown is excessively sweeping and hurts more the legitimates rather than the illegitimates. We are most willing to support your efforts at controlling or stopping smuggling altogether. And we will cooperate with you,” the group told Piñol.
“It is to the interest of the consuming public that selling prices during the Christmas/New Year season be held back or controlled as best as we can because of the higher demand. The controls now in place will only satisfy the domestic livestock and poultry producers with higher retail prices of wet market meats but will make the majority of the market pay for their gains,” it added.
“We must work for the benefit of the majority of our consumers and not only the livestock producers. We at the Meat Processing Sector will be deeply disadvantaged by this present situation. We would like to request for a reconsideration of this action, and to confer with you on the best and optimal way of handling this concern,” PAMPI said.