Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Wednesday questioned the government's importation of chicken as he stressed that local chicken growers must be prioritized amid the pandemic.
In a statement, Recto pointed out that the Department of Agriculture's report in May projected that chicken supply in the country could last for 169 to 314 days.
"If such is the case, why encourage imports? Kung 136 percent hanggang 183 percent ang chicken sufficiency forecast, bakit mag-aangkat pa?" he asked.
This came on the heels of the United Broiler Raisers Association's (UBRA) appeal to the DA to suspend the importation of chicken.
UBRA chairman Gregorio San Diego said the demand for chicken has dipped since the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was implemented on March 17. He warned that continued importation of chicken amid a low demand could prompt breeders to stop production.
In a letter to Agriculture Secretary William Dar dated June 5, the group said that the Bureau of Animal Industry dismissed their plea.
"The BAI initially argued that the volume of imports was small in proportion to local production and, therefore, could not be a threat. We replied that it was not a mere threat but that it has caused actual damage in the last 25 years. The volume of imports need not be overwhelming to cause damage," UBRA's letter read.
"After saying there was no need to suspend imports, the BAI then proceeded to recommend to us (UBRA) to self regulate and limit local production," it added.
Recto said such a position is questionable at a time when the pandemic has clamped down several businesses.
"Why should an agency whose sole mandate is to boost food production advise Filipino chicken raisers to scale down their output to give market space for dressed chicken coming from abroad?" he said.
"The farm sector is the economy’s savior and safety net, and a job generator amidst massive layoffs. The only way for the food industry to absorb the unemployed is for it to increase and not decrease its yield," he added. —LDF, GMA News