February 1, 2021 | 5:03 p.m.
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has capped the retail price at which pork and chicken products can be sold in the capital region in an effort to control rising inflation.
Ceiling prices will be in effect for 60 days after the publication of Executive Decree No. 124 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte. The order, released to reporters on Monday, imposed a limit of 270 pesos per kilo for pork shoulder and ham, 300 pesos per kilo for pork belly and 160 pesos per kilo for dressed chicken.
“It is imperative and urgent to ensure that basic necessities are adequate, affordable and accessible to all,” Duterte said in his two-page EO.
Price controls are part of the agriculture ministry’s multi-pronged approach to stop soaring pork, vegetable and chicken prices from limited supply due to African swine fever and damage to cultures by calamities. Apart from that, 162,000 tonnes of pork are imported, while provinces spared by typhoons last year have been urged to ship more produce to Metro Manila.
But the effectiveness of the latest ordinance has been questioned as much as by senators who questioned whether price controls were the right solution to inflation propelled by supply shortages. As people battled record high unemployment, lawmakers also feared price caps would only exacerbate the hardships faced by retailers.
“We have seen prices go up even though there had been a price freeze before. I think it is the oversight that is lacking in the implementation, ”said Senator Francis Pangilinan during a Senate hearing on food inflation earlier in the day.
Indeed, the price control imposed by Republic Law 7581 had already been used as a preventive measure against an anticipated rise in inflation due to crops damaged by the November typhoons. That did not work, with headline inflation accelerating to 3.5% year-on-year in December. Last month, the central bank expected it to average between 3.3% and 4.1%, with the upper limit exceeding the annual target of 2-4%.
For pork producers, the ceiling price is also “too low”. Agriculture officials suggested to Duterte that pork be capped at P 310 per kilo, up from their original proposal of P 300. Eventually, the lower amount was approved.
“Of course, we don’t want retail prices to go up to P400 plus, in the wet market. But P310 is too low for Luzon. The price cap should be what Madam President (Senator) Cynthia Villar said, at least P330, P340, P360 or P370, ”said the president of the National Federation of Pig Breeders, at the same hearing.
But Agriculture Secretary William Dar disagreed, saying that based on his agency’s control, producers would recoup production costs by selling their produce to traders at P132 per kilo. This price, of course, is supplemented by other costs such as transportation until they reach the market. Senator Imee Marcos, however, questioned Dar’s numbers.
“Many will complain about this price point. This price will only cover the cost of food… it’s too heavy (for producers). It seems unrealistic, ”she said.