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Meat tariff hearing highlights diverging agri, meat industry interests

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THE agriculture and meat industries set forth their arguments on tariffs for imported meat and edible offal, ending up in opposing camps on the level of protection needed by domestic growers.

Nicanor M. Briones, Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines party-list representative, said during a virtual public hearing of the Tariff Commission (TC) on Wednesday that low tariffs disadvantage domestic producers vis-a-vis meat importers.

“Meat importers can sell their products at a cheaper price because of the lower landed cost… There is no reason to further lower the tariff,” Mr. Briones said.

“The hog raisers are discouraged by lower tariffs,” he added.

The TC called the hearing after Senator Cynthia A. Villar asked the National Economic and Development Authority to study the current tariff structure for meat and edible offal.

These products include fresh, chilled, or frozen meat and edible offal of bovines, swine, sheep, goats, and horses, asses, mules, or hinnies.

Edible offal is derived from the entrails and internal organs of livestock, including hearts, livers, kidneys, and tongues.

The Meat Importers and Trade Association (MITA) argued for tariffs to be kept low to ensure that consumers have access to affordable protein.

“Our position is… protectionism actually prevents the poorer masses from receiving cheaper protein. Offal is an important cheap protein that the masses can afford… like (pork) liver. These are the things that the poor are buying. We should maintain the low duties for offal,” MITA Representative Paolo Pacis said.

David Kawpeng, another MITA representative, said that there are also sufficient safeguards to address smuggling, a concern that was raised during the hearing.

“If smuggling does occur, it is a matter of enforcement. We should look at the enforcement side,” Mr. Kawpeng.

“Everyone uses offal, aside from meat processors. A person who cannot afford pork would look for something cheaper. Pork is the protein of choice in the Philippines,” he added.

The tariff for bovine meat is 10% while its edible offal ranges from 5% to 7%.

The tariff for swine meat is 15% for shipments within the minimum access volume (MAV). Those in excess of the quota are charged 25%. The tariffs for edible offal from swine are set at 5%, 7%, and 10%.

The low tariff setting for swine meat was extended to the end of the year by Executive Order No. 10 recently issued by Malacañang.

The tariff for sheep meat is 5%, while that for goat was 30% within the MAV quota and 35% for shipments exceeding the quota. The tariff for horses, assess, mules, or hinnies is 5%.

The tariff for edible offal of sheep, goats, and horses, assess, mules, or hinnies is 3%. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave