Competition regulators on Friday scored the Agriculture department for proposing collective poultry price hikes, saying this would violate the law.
“While the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) recognizes the Department of Agriculture’s timely efforts to proactively assist poultry raisers, an agreement among competitors to collectively raise prices is considered anti-competitive and illegal under Section 14(a) of the Philippine Competition Act,” PCC chairman Arsenio Balisacan said in a statement.
Piñol on Tuesday proposed that the poultry industry raise farmgate prices by at least P10 per week “until such time that it hits a level where they are not losing money.”
“If we do not address this problem, some of the small players might leave the business and in a few months, we might have a shortage of chicken,” he added.
Balisacan, however, said the law prohibits “restricting competition as to price, or components thereof, or other terms of trade” and “fixing price at an auction or in any form of bidding including cover bidding, bid suppression, bid rotation and market allocation and other analogous practices of bid manipulation.”
“To address the concerns of poultry raisers and avoid harm to consumers, it is more efficient to allow producers to independently adjust their own prices or output. Concerned agencies may also consider pro-competitive forms of assistance such as access to agricultural credit or the provision of research and extension services to boost the productivity of poultry raisers,” he added.
Farmgate prices of chicken have fallen to about P38 per kilo in some areas in the country. The cost of producing broilers ranges from P80 to P85 per kilo.
“As the country’s champion for market competition, the PCC stands ready to offer advisory support to the Department of Agriculture in the formulation of policies that meet the dual objectives of promoting healthy market competition and improving the welfare of producers in the agriculture sector,” Balisacan said.
Bong Inciong, President of United Broiler Raisers Association, said the PCC should look at “distortive” elements in the market to show it was serious in promoting healthy competition.
“Apparently, they do not understand the situation. There are distortive market control elements beyond the farmgate. It’s their job to look into that situation,” he said.
“If we are able to set our prices in the first place ‘independently’ without pressure from distortive forces, there would be no need for us to seek help from the government,” Inciong added.
EIREENE JAIREE GOMEZ