Except for vegans and those who shy away from eating red meat, I guess almost all of us salivate every time we hear the word “lechon”. The late famous American chef, culinary writer and television host Anthony Bourdain swears to the succulent, juicy taste of our local lechon.

Now here’s the sad news. We city diners may have to brace ourselves for a more expensive lechon, which is usually the star of the table feast on occasions or even none at all.

And, if you have family in the US, you may have heard about the shortage of chicken in their supermarkets, and/or the costlier price of chicken, pork, and beef. What is happening? It is largely because of the upward global movements in the prices of corn and grains supply that some market players foresee may be felt here in Metro Manila sooner than expected.

Except maybe for big millers like San Miguel Corporation, which owns B-Meg, the country’s largest feed miller, we heard from the business community that small and medium sized livestock growers, specifically pig or chicken growers, are now complaining about the surge in the prices of feed mix in recent months.

Remember, swine growers have been whipped black and blue by the AFS (African swine fever) since its outbreak in late 2019, and the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) increased importations of pork and chicken in recent months certainly have not helped.

Still, the fact remains that San Miguel, as with all the other 500 feed millers in the country, are vulnerable to the global price and supply movements of all the ingredients that go into their formulations. You see, our feed millers are very much dependent on grain imports, all of which, except for a limited amount of corn, have to be bought from other countries.

You might say hey, don’t we plant corn? Yes, we do, but local production has never been able to fill up the feed millers’ needs, which I should add, have been growing a lot to satisfy Filipinos’ love for meat. The uproar in the commodity market is primarily due to a global supply chain that has been screwed up by the world economy weakening from the coronavirus pandemic. Climate change is also partly to blame.

The prices of world grains – corn, sorghum, wheat and barley – used as ingredients in feed mixes, have gone up to levels not seen in the last five to 10 years. Corn, which is the leading influencer of prices, has been affected by the drought in Brazil, one of the world’s biggest corn producers.

Compounding the situation, based on my research, is that corn substitutes, like wheat, are also in short supply because of unfavorable weather conditions in the US, Canada and Russia, which are all major wheat exporters. 

On the intra-regional front, China’s binge-buying of corn and other feed grains is adding heat to the supply-driven price surges. Such resulted in the high price and extremely tight supply situation in ASEAN, which is the only source of our corn at a lower five percent tariff rate.

The DA needs to quickly think of a good solution before all these turns into another pressure point that would further elevate inflation rates. We might take a quick cue from Vietnam, which has reduced its import tariff rates of corn from five percent to three percent. Better still, we should suspend the import tariffs from non-ASEAN countries, which now stand from a range of 35 percent to 50 percent.

With everybody’s incomes constrained by this pandemic, the last thing Filipino households want at this time when the holiday season is just around the corner would be another cause for belt-tightening.

If this will not be addressed soonest, the buzz is that not only lechon price is expected to climb but the iconic Christmas ham for the Noche Buena, as well.

Talk back to me at sionil731@gmail.com

Source: Manila Bulletin (https://mb.com.ph/2021/10/01/expensive-lechon/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=expensive-lechon)