By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG), one of the biggest groups of agricultural producers in the country, said there is enough supply of local pork and chicken after a group of meat processors sought the government’s intervention about their depleting inventory.
The supply of local pork and chicken, according to the group, is still good to last at least up to five months despite the current lockdown in Luzon, which is being implemented by the Philippine government in order to control the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country.
“Our backyard farms have sufficient inventory of live pigs and chicken” said SINAG Chair Rosendo So.
SINAG also said that the latest inventory of frozen pork in accredited cold storage remains high at 43,398 metric tons (MT), while poultry products are at 56,521 metric tons (MT). These figures are much higher than the inventory last month or even last year, the group pointed out.
The SINAG assurance came as Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (PAMPI), one of the largest group of meat processing companies in the Philippines, wrote to Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez to inform him about their declining inventory.
“We expect that by the first week of April, our inventories will run out without adequate new production, along with those in possession of distributors and retailers. Thus, we anticipate severe shortage of our goods by mid-April,” PAMPI top officials, Felik Tiukinhoy Jr. and Jerome Ong, told Lopez.
To be specific, they said the inventory of Century Pacific Food Inc. alone is now good to last only for less than 15 days, while CDO-Foodsphere Inc. has 11 days and Virginia Food has inventory worth 20 days at its Manila warehouse.
This, while Velfram Foods Corporation had already shut down its 1,200 stores as well as King Sue Ham & Sausage Co. Inc, which is located in coronavirus-hit Caloocan.
Most of PAMPI’s raw materials are imported. For pork alone, only 5 percent of the raw pork needs of PAMPI members are locally sourced, while 95 percent are being purchased overseas.
“The main reason is the inability to receive raw materials [meats, packaging materials, ingredients etc.] needed in manufacturing due to the checkpoints leading to plant locations. Company shuttles for plant employees are being stopped,” Tiukinhoy and Ong said.
They also said that imported raw materials are being held up at the port because customs brokers cannot go to the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to file the import entries because they are not authorized to travel.
“We thus leave it to you and the IATF [Inter-Agency Task Force] to determine if our situation is salvageable,” Tiukinhoy and Ong further told Lopez.
Lopez, however, clarified that the PAMPI letter only expressed its fear that the disruption of cargo trucks carrying food supplies could cause delays in food production.
“There were just implementation glitches during the first two days of the Enhanced Community Quarantine since some trucks were stopped at checkpoints. This is the reason PAMPI wrote me the letter,” he said.
He said that PAMPI members are producing everyday. All food companies and cargoes are allowed to move unhampered. “All cargoes (food and non-food) are allowed to pass through checkpoints unhampered,” he stressed noting that non-food exporters are continuing their operations.
In its defense, PAMPI clarified that its letter to Lopez was not meant for “public consumption” and told consumers that there is no reason to panic.
“While there are indeed difficulties in replenishing our stocks of canned and processed goods, nobody is really prepared for a crisis of this proportion.
And while we do encounter problems at the checkpoints, ongoing talks with the DTI as well as other government agencies prove to be very fruitful. Though the inventory levels of canned goods manufacturers went down the past two days, we are continuously being allowed to produce so we are hopeful that we will recover,” PAMPI said.
“We appeal to the LGU’s [local government units] to please observe the guidelines set by the IATF to expedite the movement of our people, our goods and the raw materials needed to produce them,” it added.