Philippines sets price ceiling for pork, chicken as food inflation soars

MANILA, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday signed an executive order mandating price ceilings for pork and chicken in the capital region, as costlier meat has propelled food inflation to a double-digit level.

Pork retail prices in the Philippines, the world’s seventh-biggest pork importer before local demand fell due to the coronavirus pandemic, jumped more than 50% in January from a year earlier as African swine fever hit hog farm operations.

The resulting pork supply crunch has also kept prices of chicken elevated as demand increased, despite a domestic oversupply of poultry meat.

The upward pressure on pork and chicken prices gained momentum during the Christmas holidays, pushing annual inflation for meat to 10% in December, and adding to overall inflation which hit 3.5%, the highest level in nearly two years.

Rising inflation, which economists expect to be above the mid-point of the government’s full-year target range of 2%-4% in January, could put the central bank under pressure to reverse its accommodative monetary policy aimed at supporting the pandemic hit domestic economy.

Pork prices at markets in Metro Manila must now be sold at 270-300 pesos ($5.62-$6.24) per kg, from more than 400 pesos in some outlets since December, according to Duterte’s order.

The price of dressed chicken is now pegged at 160 pesos per kg from as high as 200 pesos per kg.

To stabilise prices, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in January that pork imports may be tripled this year to 162,000 tonnes. (Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Martin Petty)