DA denies chicken shortage as prices rise

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 14) — Chicken products were not spared from rising commodity prices. Prices went up and supply remains tight in public markets, affecting some restaurants.

Still, the Department of Agriculture (DA) denied there's a chicken shortage.

Whole dressed chicken retails for ₱190-₱200 in most public markets in Metro Manila. At the Mega Q-Mart in Quezon City, a kilo of chicken wings or drumstick has been selling for ₱210 for the past two weeks.

The price in June 2021 was ₱170.

Some restaurants running out

Already, several restaurants have taken the hit.

With chicken expensive and hard to come by, some stores known for chicken wings were forced to temporarily remove chicken dishes from the menu. Some McDonald's outlets on Tuesday were not offering fried chicken in online apps, while  some branches of popular chain Frankie's limited orders to flavored boneless chicken as opposed to wings by the dozen. 

Resto PH president Eric Teng said the chicken problem is on top of supply woes concerning flour, potatoes, and beef.

The United Broiler Raisers Association (UBRA) confirmed the short supply, noting that local production is held back not just by surging fuel prices but by factors dating back to COVID-19 lockdowns.

UBRA chairman Gregorio San Diego told CNN Philippines that local poultry raisers have reduced production by 30% during the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 amid low demand and an influx of chicken imports –– the latter supposedly meant to bring down retail prices.

"Naging conservative kami sa production [We turned conservative regarding production]," San Diego said in an interview. "Even before itong war of Ukraine, lagi kaming nag-iingat... tumaas ang presyo ng feeds [we are always cautious... the price of feeds also went up]."

"Lalong natakot yung marami sa amin na mag-alaga kasi ang laki ng puhunan mo ngayon, paano kung nalugi ka? [More of our members are afraid to raise chickens because the capital needed is so high, what if you end up losing all that money?]," he added.

Input costs on feeds, such as corn, soya, and wheat climbed in the past weeks, San Diego said, which forced some feeds suppliers to change formulations. This led to smaller chickens.

UBRA added that the current supply woes may not be met through importations, as source countries have limited or banned chicken exports to prioritize local demand amid the spread of bird flu.

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No shortage

In Mandaue City in Cebu and parts of Abra, chicken vendors reportedly had to close their stalls as they could not get stocks. Still, the DA said it may be temporary.

"I would not qualify it as a shortage," Bureau of Animal Industry officer-in-charge Director Reildrin Morales said. "Compounded itong problemang ito but let's give our local producers a chance na itong supply and demand equation natin ay mag-autocorrect."

The DA official cited there are 23,264.46 metric tons (MT) of dressed chicken in cold storages as of June 6, up from the previous week. The level, however, is lower than the 30,993.56 MT inventory during the same period a year ago.

Majority of the supply is imported, with barely a third sourced from local farms.

Morales said the supply gap can be addressed by poultry raisers increasing production, the results of which may be seen within one to two months – the full cycle of chicken-raising.

He added that additional chicken imports are not being discussed. He clarified that the thin supply in Cebu is likely due to a ban imposed by the local government to bring in chicken supply from other provinces to prevent the spread of bird flu among poultry.

READ: Agri groups appeal for more support for local farmers amid looming food crisis

However, UBRA's San Diego said the DA was slow to respond to the emerging problem, warning that a looming shortage on eggs is also expected towards the end of the year.

"'Yung kasalanan ng DA, ang nagbabayad ang buong Pilipinas dahil sa kanilang policies na 'yan. Lumiit ang local production, eto ngayon ang nangyari sa atin [The entire country is paying for DA's mistakes because of their wrong policies. Local production shrunk that's why we're here]," the UBRA official said.

San Diego added that chicken prices may keep rising in the weeks ahead.