Hog raisers: Smuggling is killing us

URDANETA CITY —A top official of a hog raisers’ group in the country has asked the government to investigate people behind the top 10 importers of offal (innards) and determine where they bring the meat products.
Rosendo So, chair of the party-list group Abono and convenor of the Swine Development Council, made this appeal after backyard hog raisers in the country complained of rampant meat smuggling that, they said, had been killing the livelihood of backyard hog and poultry raisers.
So, also the president of the Northern Luzon Hog Raisers Cooperative, said a list of offal importers issued by the Bureau of Customs does not include the major meat processors as top 10 importers. He said major meat processing firms like Purefoods, RFM and San Miguel Corp. ranked 27th, 47th and 84th, respectively, in the list, based on import volume.
“The top 10 [importers] in the list are unknown even to the Department of Agriculture as meat processors,” he told the Inquirer.
“We do not know the people behind the top 10 importers. We hope the government will investigate [this] so we will know who they are and where they bring the millions of kilograms of offal they import,” So said.

Technical smuggling
He said the importers resort to technical smuggling of meat or misdeclare prime meat cuts as offal because it has a low tariff of only 5 percent, as compared to 40 percent tariff for prime cuts.
“The technical smugglers are able to avail of the lower tariff by declaring prime meat as offal. The prime cut is typically hidden underneath offal or innards, which are used by food manufacturers as extenders,” So said.
He said the government had been losing about P3.7 billion in annual revenues due to technical smuggling of pork and chicken.
“We are not opposing the importation of meat if [importers] pay the proper taxes. What we are opposing is the technical smuggling by those who import offal and smuggle prime cuts that should have been levied with 40 percent,” he said.
“We just want the government to put in place mechanisms not only to protect the local industries but to level the playing field as well,” So said.
He said the illegal importation had killed 20 percent of the P25-billion backyard hog and poultry industry.

Pork holiday
Recently, backyard hog raisers in northern and central Luzon and some parts of the country suspended supplying pigs to slaughterhouses and public markets to protest the smuggling of meat.
So said their action was not meant to sabotage the economy but a way of expressing their grievances so the government would stop meat smuggling.
“We want to protect the interest and survival of the local hog and poultry industries which are facing extinction due to unabated smuggling of pork and chicken by unscrupulous importers,” So said in a statement.
He said meat smugglers and their protectors were destroying the economy by depriving government of taxes and killing the livelihood of backyard raisers.
“Accusing us of engaging in economic sabotage is not only unfair but uncalled for. We just want to protect the local industries from unfair trade practices of unscrupulous meat importers. They are the real economic saboteurs,” he said. Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon