- Category: The Nation
- Published on Thursday, May 19 2011 06:08
- Written by Rod Hughes
- Hits: 794
"What's in a name?" asked Shakespeare. Well, if the name is "swine flu," it affects pork imports, even though world health authorities absolved the porcine breed from links with the AH1N1 virus.
Even though the flu was scarcely felt here, pork consumption in 2009 dropped off in this country, causing local pork producers to reduce their stock. While meat imports rose only 53% overall between 2009-10, frozen pork imports zoomed 288%, evidently due to a return to pork by local consumers.
According to the local export promotion agency, Procomer, this country was not the only one showing the swine flu effect. Canada's pork exports rose 151%, Chile's 622% and the United States by 386%.
The situation was not helped by an alleged import duty evasion on Chilean imported pork, according to Mario Garro, general manager of Carnes Zamora. While the price of pork rose 21% during the first four months of 2010, buyers preferred Chilean pork for its huge profit margin.
Reportedly, imported Chilean pork represented only about half the normal cost to importers due to the tax evasion. But a month ago, a suit was filed against pork importers, according to Renato Alvarado of the Pork Producers' Chamber.
Time was in this country when every small farmer raised a few pigs for family consumption and sold a part of the pork to local meat markets. With the rise of supermarkets and an increasing population, pork raising became more specialized.
The free trade treaty with the United States (CAFTA) resulted in a disadvantage for local producers, so they turned from export to the domestic markets again. Alvarado told the business newspaper El Financiero that the sector will mount a campaign in June to increase domestic pork consumption but he hopes that the government will do something to encourage exports.
Naturally, this must be done carefully, since government incentives for exports will be closely watched by the U.S. Commerce Department for treaty violations.