Chicken prices surge after ditching of costly pork for chicks in the Philippines

Thai chicken exporters have bright future, Photo: NNT. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

MANILA, Mar 16, 2021, PhilStar. Demand from people ditching expensive pork for other protein source has started pushing up prices of chicken meat, potentially creating a new source of inflation, The Philippine Star reported.

While pork prices have subsided in the first month of a Metro Manila price cap, chicken costs have surged in the first monthly monitoring of select prices of goods by the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Nine of 17 regions, including the National Capital Region, saw prices of dressed chicken increase over the first 2 weeks of February. Only prices in Cagayan Valley decreased by an average of P5 per kilo, while those in seven others were stable.

Price increases varied, but five of nine regions saw retail costs per kilogram jumped between P12.50 and P18.50. NCR posted the smallest uptick at P3.29 a kilo, but average price of P178.89 stayed way above the P160 per kilo limit set by government.

“We do not have supply problems for chicken. What happened was when the market reopened, there was a change in preference from pork to chicken because pork was expensive,” Reildrin Morales, officer-in-charge of Bureau of Animal Industry, said in a phone interview.

Demand for chicken spiked while the industry was “repopulating” broiler chickens, or those raised and bred to a certain weight for consumption. For this purpose, imports were made to counter a 7.9% drop in local chicken production in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Shipments have started arriving, but not before chicken prices went up due to demand. “The industry is already bringing in breeders for broiler (chicken)…We don’t see reasons to worry about chicken meat,” Morales said.

The government itself encouraged Filipinos to shift to chicken for protein in order to temper a pork shortage left by the African swine fever that killed pigs. Emilio Neri Jr., lead economist at Bank of the Philippine Islands, said chicken inflation is to be expected as a offshoot, but it is not something likely to last.

“Pork will take much longer especially if swine farmers remain cautious in repopulating their farms after getting hit badly in 2019 and 2020,” Neri said in an email. “Chicken does not have ASF to worry about.”

But for Nicholas Antonio Mapa, senior economist at ING Bank in Manila, prices of other commodities are still worth watching. That is because apart from chicken, prices of fish, particularly of bangus, have also gone up outside Metro Manila.

These, in turn, can potentially offset any declines in pork prices as seen in official inflation numbers that picked up to 4.7% in February, the highest in over 2 years.

“Authorities will need to move swiftly to address these issues at the soonest to allow increased importation of these food stuffs. The best way to address supply side inflation is to simply augment supply,” Mapa said in a separate email.

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