Philippines cuts pork tariffs to address supply shortage

MANILA, April 7 (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday reduced pork import tariffs as the government seeks to address a domestic shortage by ramping up purchases from abroad.

The Southeast Asian country, the world’s seventh-biggest pork importer before local demand fell due to the pandemic, plans to import roughly 400,000 tonnes of pork this year, more than double the 162,000 tonnes planned earlier.

The pork shortfall, due to African Swine Fever outbreaks, has pushed local meat prices higher, causing inflation to shoot up and stay above the central bank’s full-year target band of 2% to 4% in the first quarter.

“There is an urgent need to temporarily reduce the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariff rates on fresh, chilled or frozen meat of swine to address the existing pork supply shortage, stabilise prices of pork meat, and minimise inflation rates,” Duterte said in an executive order.

The order cuts the tariff for pork imports during the first three months it is effective to 5% from 30% currently, and to 10% during months four to 12.

For pork imports outside the quota scheme, the tariff will drop to 15% during the first three months from 40% currently, and to 20% for the remainder of the 12-month period.

Philippine pork production is estimated to have dropped 20% last year as the highly infectious African Swine Fever disease prompted the culling of more than 300,000 pigs, or about 3% of the hog population, based on government data.

Aside from increasing pork imports, the government is embarking on a massive pig repopulation programme to boost domestic meat supply.

Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Kirsten Donovan