, May 31 , 2004
By Rocel C. Felix  -  The government program allowing the importation of chicken to augment the tight supply in the local market and bring prices down has been drawing strong interest from traders and meat processors, a top agriculture official said.

Arthur Yap, National Food Authority administrator and officer-in-charge of the Department of Agriculture (DA) said they have already received applications for import permits for 3,592.8 metric tons (MT) of cut-up chicken as of May 27, only three days after the DA officially gave its nod to bring in the goods.

From June to August, the DA authorized the entry of 5,000 MT of cheap imported chicken while another standby volume of 5,000 MT might be shipped from September till end-December if local chicken prices remain high.

Citing data from the National Veterinary Quarantine Service of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), Yap said of the 43 companies which signified their intention to import the meat, only three were unaccredited, or new applicants, with the rest consisting of accredited and long-standing importers.

Under a special revised program, importers can immediately bring in the product regardless of whether they are done outside or inside the minimum access volume (MAV) scheme.

The imported meat products are slapped a uniform 40 percent tariff, and this will be made possible as the DA has temporarily lifted the Special Safeguard (SSG) measure, particularly the trigger price mechanism of P94 per kilogram, which are normally applied on imported chicken.

Industry experts estimate that at current prices of chicken from traditional sources such as the US and Canada, the landed price should be at the range of P70 to P75 per kilo. Had the DA not lifted the SSG, the landed price would be about P94 per kilo.

Since last month, the supply shortfall has caused prices to go up to as much as P110 per kilo from only about P90 to P95 per kilo.

Only importers accredited by the BAI will be permitted to bring in the commodity and will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

Some quarters had hoped that the authorized volume of chicken imports should be bigger to make chicken meat more affordable for consumers, still also reeling from the high prices of pork.

Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo Jr. earlier admitted that the volume represents just one percent of the country’s chicken supply and only about three percent of Metro Manila’s annual chicken demand.

The Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. said a realistic volume will require importations of 15 million kilos.

"What we are concerned about is an imminent repeat of what happened earlier this year when production was not able to meet the surge in demand for chicken," PAMPI spokesperson Francisco Buencamino said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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