Gov’t keeps tight watch on pork imports

By: Ben O. de Vera - Philippine Daily Inquirer | February 23,2021 - 10:15 AM

While allowing more pork imports in a bid to arrest elevated domestic prices caused by a supply lack, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has ordered the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to be on the lookout for smugglers who might take advantage of lower import duties.

In a statement Monday, the Department of Finance (DOF) said Dominguez recently told Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero to “take a close look at the potential smuggling of pork.”

In particular, Dominguez, former agriculture secretary under president Corazon Aquino, flagged possible technical smuggling by misdeclaration or misclassification of imported meat to avoid payment of correct duties and taxes.

For instance, “edible offal (entrails) of bovine animals, such as swine, sheep and goats are taxed much lower, which some importers may declare (for their) prime pork shipments to avoid paying higher import duties,” the DOF said.

In response, the DOF said Guerrero assured Dominguez that the BOC had been closely monitoring the imports of meat products, including pork and chicken.

Early this month, President Duterte approved in principle the new minimum access volume allocations and tariff rates for pork, whose prices skyrocketed due to the African swine fever (ASF) scare.

This meant incoming pork shipments from ASF-free countries would be slapped a lower import duty than the 30-40 percent at present.

Meat inflation jumped to 17 percent year-on-year in January from 10 percent in December last year mainly due to higher pork prices.

Alongside more expensive vegetables and other food items, pork had been mainly blamed for the two-year high headline inflation rate of 4.2 percent year-on-year posted in January, which was already above the government’s 2-4 percent target range. INQ

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