A possible collusion among hog traders to withhold the release of pork products in the market is causing prices to jack up, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said Saturday.
Citing data from the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), the DA noted a significant inventory of both locally slaughtered and imported pork in cold storage facilities accredited by the service.
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 DA is also looking at whether the high prices were a result of inefficiencies in the supply chain, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said.
As of the third week of October, 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,” Dar said.
“Also, we should convince our countrymen to consume more chicken in lieu of pork as a source of meat protein,” he added.
The department 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, the Agriculture chief stressed.
“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.
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.