“Aanhin ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo,” our grandfathers used to ask. In English, what good is fresh grass to a dead horse?

Several government economists, politicians and bureaucrats would have you believe that imported chicken is cheaper than locally produced chicken. There is a hidden cost and bigger price that Filipinos are paying and most of us don’t even realize it.

During the Arroyo administration, economists and advisers publicly declared that it was cheaper to buy or import rice than to plant rice in the Philippines. They even managed to get the Rice Tariffication Law passed in Congress just to legitimize the massive importation of rice and in exchange, farmers would get part of the tax collected

I highlighted “part” because farmers ended up losing more in the deal. They thought they were going to get windfall subsidies but ended up having to share the revenues with government and a couple of agencies. The importers and rice cartel and congressional minions are now laughing at how Filipinos fell for the trick!

Imported food products such as rice, chicken, pork, beef are always being offered as cheaper than local products and Filipinos who only see the sticker price are believing the lie. Even the untrained media must be spoon fed to realize the depth of destruction and final high cost of “cheap” imports.

As proven by the impact of the Rice Tariffication Law, importation is anti-farmer. But it’s not limited to rice. Many backyard poultry and pork raisers have left the business or drastically reduced their investments and production because they cannot compete with the imported finish product that is subsidized by other countries or dumped as excess into the Philippines. Unlike rice dealers or sugar blocs and associations, the poultry and pork raisers do not get any subsidies or ayuda!

Local producers pay the highest electricity in the Philippines and in the region, they pay high salaries and benefits compared to other countries, have no real government protection in terms of government mandated farmgate prices or predatory practices of middlemen, as well as corruption at different levels of local governments and within the Department of Agriculture. The problem is importations are not just anti-farmer. As today’s title suggests, agricultural importation is also anti-business, anti-labor and ultimately anti-Filipino.

Based on a recent statement of the United Broilers and Raisers Association, UBRA chairman Gregorio San Diego warned that chicken importations have gone higher in the second semester of this year (2023), resulting in billions of losses on the broiler and allied industries. The “allied industries” being referred to are the thousands of large and small feed millers or manufacturers located in every region or province in the Philippines and many other groups.

UBRA estimates that animal feed companies lost P4.877 billion in sales that did not occur because imported chicken prevented or displaced local production. Related to poultry feed manufacturing are the many farms that could not sell feed ingredients for animal feeds. Farms planted to corn lost about P11.89 billion, soya farms reportedly lost P8.154 billion, coconut oil factories lost P4.478 and rice bran sellers missed out by P1.132 billion.

These losses do not include the many technicians, specialists and sales and dealership groups that produce, manufacture, deliver and sell animal feeds at the retail level. These are not “farmers.” Many of them are college graduates, degree holders, whose jobs are continually at risk due to the ever-shrinking market for poultry and hog feeds all over the country.

When these companies are forced to cut costs due to lower sales, the first they cut are budgets for sales promotions, events and consumer education = farmers or producers. Information programs, product sampling, farm visits and technical assistance are reduced or put on hold until revenues can justify the expense and commitments.

Allied industries also include companies dedicated to producing day-old chicks or DOCs, ready-to-lay pullets or RTL and broiler breeders. The massive importations have discouraged producers from making orders for approximately 315.122 million day-old chicks amounting to P9.138 billion, while the non-order for 2.52 million broiler breeders resulted to an estimated P756.294 million. At this level, the UBRA reports that importations “translated to lost direct labor/jobs totaling to 31,512 on a ratio of one caretaker per 10,000 broilers and lost jobs in feed milling, trucking and dressing plants.”

While reporters and politicians have focused primarily on the price per kilo of chicken or pork, they failed miserably in pointing out the many allied industries such as major companies engaged in the research, development and production of veterinary products such as disinfectants, vaccines, vitamins and antibiotics that lost approximately P3.623 billion in sales because the government supports importation instead of local production.

Even dressing plants large and small lost money in the first half of the year because the volume for dressed chicken shrunk and that cost P2.993 billion in lost work and revenues for dressing plants. And here’s the crazy part – many Filipinos who enjoy buying “adidas on a stick,” chicken feet, isaw, etc. are all eating frozen delights and so are you. Much of the chicken supplied in public markets, restaurants, fast food joints are imported chicken or meat that are kept in huge cold storage facilities. Unless you bought chicken from a reputable local producer or watched it culled and dressed in front of you, chances are it’s not fresh!