ANGELES CITY,  March 10, 2004
 (STAR) By Marichu A. Villanueva - President Arroyo said yesterday that the government will temporarily lift import tariffs on pork as well as corn and soybean meal to ease a domestic pork shortage.

Mrs. Arroyo said during a speech to residents of this northern city that she would authorize duty-free imports of 5,000 tons of pork as well as soya meal and 350,000 tons of corn.

The order covers "zero duty importation of soy beans and 350,000 metric tons of corn only for hog raisers," she said. The two grains are key components of hog feed.

President Arroyo said she will issue an executive order to cover the duty-free imports because Congress was in recess ahead of the May 10 general elections.

The President announced her decision at the Central Resort within the Mimosa Leisure Estate at the Clark Special Economic Zone in Angeles City, Pampanga yesterday when she introduced Trade and Industry Secretary Cesar Purisima.

Purisima is one of the members of the Cabinet committee on Tariff and Related Matters (TRM) which recommended the tariff reduction and duty-free importation of prime commodities like pork, corn and soya feeds.

The duty-free importation on pork, corn and soya beans was strongly recommended by Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo Jr. as part of the measures worked out by the government with the leaders of the local hog industry and meat dealers following their conflict that caused the "pork-holiday" strike in the wet markets.

The move was hailed by Nicanor Briones, president of the Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines (ASAP), who told The STAR that the recommendation was in accordance with what hog raisers agreed with Agriculture Lorenzo in a meeting last Tuesday.

"The proposal will benefit not really so much the food processors as the consumers, since if the shortage continues, the price of pork could rise from the present average of P140 to P150 per kilo to as much as P180 per kilo," he said.

But Briones stressed that the agreement was for the importation to stop by the first week of June when local hog raisers expect to slaughter enough local hogs to fill in the demand for pork.

"Our understanding is that hog raisers would be put in charge of pork importation and the the imported meat would include skin and bones, and that only 10 percent tariff would be imposed on the imports," Briones also said.

"Studies have shown that the shortage of pork was also aggravated by the fear of chicken triggered by bird flu cases in other countries. We hope that very soon, this fear will vanish and the 30 percent of consumers who have shifted to pork would again consume chicken," Briones noted.

He said, however, that hog raisers would object to pork importation beyond the 5,000 metric tons.

Briones also hailed the proposal for the duty free importation of soya and corn whose prices have gone up in the markets and also has contributed to the high price of pork in the markets. Marichu Villanueva, Ding Cervantes

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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