DESPITE being a P200-billion industry, the country’s meat processors feel that they do not get the recognition and support they deserve from the government.
At the 25th anniversary celebration of the Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (Pampi) Friday, president Felix Tiukinhoy lamented that their sector has been “repeatedly chastised and ignored.” Earlier in the day, they held a dialogue with Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala at the Crimson Resort and Spa seeking his intervention on some policies that they find detrimental to the growth and competitiveness of their industry.
Among the issues are the use of reference values in calculating importation duties, the policy requiring each company to reveal meat inventories in cold storage, difficult accreditation procedures, guidelines in meat inspection services, the quality of meat being produced and other administrative orders.
Pampi executive director Francisco Buencamino told Alcala that the use of reference values in calculating importation duties does not reflect the correct values, because they are using US values. They pointed out that not all meat is imported from the US and the values do not match the actual transactions, making them liable to the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
He also said that the policy of the Joint Committee on Food Security requiring individual companies to disclose their meat inventories violates their privacy and right to protect their information from competitors. He explained that the National Meat Inspection Service already has aggregate data and that should be enough to let the committee know where the country stands in terms of meat supply. He added that some lawmakers are also elected congressmen, which gives them access to data they would otherwise not have.
The group also lamented the accreditation procedure of the NMIS requiring clearances from the National Bureau of Investigation as added difficulty, as the NBI does not release clearances for companies but only for individuals. Another requirement of the Bureau of Customs is for a separate pre-shipment inspection, of which costs are passed on to the importers. Buencamino said this offends the country of origin of these goods, as their respective authorities have already submitted these for inspection and had them cleared. “It would insult the foreign governments because the protocol has been approved already. It would be embarrassing to do that,” Buencamino told Alacala.
Buencamino said all these added requirements and tax duties affect their ability to keep prices of food down and goes against the country’s goal of achieving food security. It also discourages investors from funding investments if the requirements are too tedious.
Alcala welcomed the feedback and said dialogues such as last Friday’s can help them understand the needs of the private sector.
While some of the concerns are not under his agency, he assured them that these will be forwarded to the concerned cabinet secretaries. He also said that a meeting with the BOC, BIR, NMIS and Department of Finance ought to be held with the Pampi so that these concerns could be brought up.
Alcala said he wants to discuss these issues with the NMIS to get their side and find out why such procedures are necessary. He acknowledged there was a mismatch in terms of providing the needs of the industry and was grateful for the chance to hear what the stakeholders had to say.
Pampi officials also asked Alcala if he could ensure that livestock growers can improve the quality of the meat they are producing, noting that with the Asean economic integration looming, the Philippines has the chance to serve a market of over 600 million, but only if the quality of its goods is ensured.
To this, Alcala said they are currently finishing an AAA-rated abattoir in Batangas and AAA-rated dressing plant in Tarlac, and planning to establish laboratory facilities in three regions of the country outside Metro Manila to determine the quality of meats. They are also working on a roadmap to determine the course of the industry.
He is confident that the local meat producers will be able to deliver higher volumes, as the country is ready to export to countries like the United Arab Emirates.
Alcala noted that the expat population alone has a high demand for pork, including many overseas Filipinos.
Some 49 Pampi members and several of their guests joined the celebration that night, where Alcala swore in the year’s officers.
In his speech, Tiukinhoy said their industry has always proven that it could provide customers with a steady supply of processed meats under steady and affordable prices.
He added that their products adopt GMP, HACCP and are proven safe and free from contamination. Their industry, he said, has made a big contribution to the country’s economy.
However, they feel that their concerns are not given as much importance as other sectors.
“Instead, what we received and continue to receive are piles and piles of unnecessary, repetitive and costly regulations that seemed to flow like endless lava from an angry volcano. On top of that, the costs of our imported raw materials are manipulated to strangle us and make business more difficult for us,” Tiukinhoy said.
He asked that government work for legislation to establish an agency dedicated to nurture, develop and protect food processing or manufacturing, which other countries in Southeast Asia have done to let their sectors compete in an integrated economy.
He said that they have not received the right kind of government support such as access to cheap credit, tax incentives, technical advice, information on foreign markets or cushions against the impact of rising costs of raw materials, things he feels will help the Philippines compete in Southeast Asia.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 28, 2014.