Senators are gearing up to draft a bill that seeks to bankroll programs that would revitalize the livestock, poultry and corn industries to increase farmers’ income while reducing prices of meat for Filipino consumers.

Sen. Cynthia A. Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, said they would soon file a measure tentatively called the livestock development and competitiveness (LDC) bill that seeks to modernize the livestock, poultry and corn sectors of the country and lower meat prices in the market.

“We have neglected the livestock industry until the African swine fever [ASF] came in. I did not think of it until the ASF came because our livestock industry is private-sector led,” Villar said during a virtual Senate hearing on Thursday.

“We are really studying how to help the livestock farmers because of the hardships they experienced with ASF. This bill was delayed because we had to commission a study since there was none before. I asked the Department of Finance [DOF] to make a study since we cannot write a bill without a basis, and it took them six months,” Villar added.

The proposed LDC bill, which is based on a study commissioned by the government, seeks to “promote the development and competitiveness” of the livestock, poultry and corn industries by creating an earmarked fund to these respective industries akin to the rice competitiveness enhancement fund.

In his presentation, economist Karlo Adriano, who is also a proponent of the study, pointed out that the livestock competitiveness enhancement fund (LCEF) for the livestock, poultry and dairy industries would have an earmarked fund of P6.3 billion based on the average tariff collections from 2015 to 2020.

The corn competitiveness enhancement fund (CCEF), which will be comprised of both the tariff collections from corn and feed wheat imports, would amount to P2.8 billion, Adriano added.

The creation of these two funds would increase the government’s national budget for the corn sector to P5 billion from the present P2.2 billion and livestock budget to nearly P10 billion from the current P3.6 billion, Adriano explained.

The other salient points of the proposed LDC bill include the rationalization of government agencies concerned with the livestock, poultry and corn industries.

Based on the commissioned study’s recommendation, two government agencies would be created to oversee the development of the livestock, poultry and dairy sectors: first, the Philippine Livestock and Poultry Authority that would focus on the growth of the domestic sectors and second the Bureau of Animal Safety and Regulations that would oversee rules and regulations regarding meat trade.

Adriano pointed out that the current “fragmented government support structure leads to uncoordinated policies and efforts in developing the competitiveness of the country’s livestock, poultry, dairy and corn industries.”

The other provisions of the LDC bill include the crafting of value chain development road maps for the concerned commodities and the exemption from taxes and duties of farm inputs, veterinary and other supplies, equipment, machineries, breeders, etc. The LDC also has a provision that would allow the activation of Animal and Livestock Emergency Response Task Force (ALERTF) during pest and diseases-related emergencies.

“The LDC takes a holistic value chain approach which aims to promote the development and competitiveness of the local LPD [livestock, poultry, dairy] and corn industries,” Adriano said.

“[It will also] improve availability and affordability of nutritious and safe LPD products for 110 million Filipinos, who spend about 9 percent of their total household budget on LPD products,” Adriano added.

Like the rice trade liberalization (RTL) law and the RCEF, Adriano pointed out that the LDC and the funds that it will create are both pro-farmer and pro-consumer.

Adriano explained that the bill is pro-farmer since it hikes the budget of the national programs for their industries while creating a bureaucratic environment wherein there are streamlined government interventions or policies throughout the value chain.

Adriano pointed out the passage of the LDC bill would allow Filipinos in the bottom 30 percent of the population to save at least P125 every month in their meat expenditure while Filipinos in all income deciles would save P274 monthly.

Adriano noted that one of the key reasons why meat prices are expensive in the Philippines compared to neighboring countries is due to feed costs, which account for 60 percent of farmers’ production costs.

Citing industry data, Adriano said a 1 peso per kilogram increase in the price of yellow corn leads to a P0.55 increase for every kilogram of animal feed which in turns results in a P0.84 per kilogram increase in the prices of pork and chicken.