DA: ‘Out of control’ rise in price of onion may force PH to import
MANILA, Philippines — If the price of onion will continue to rise, the Department of Agriculture (DA) will be forced to resort to importation as a “band-aid solution.”
DA deputy spokesperson Rex Estoperez said this Thursday as he lamented the “out of control” increase in the cost of onions in public markets which, according to him, could have been averted if there had been tighter measures against smuggling of agricultural products as well as the importation of commodities during harvest season.
Citing his discussions with onion farmers or suppliers, Estoperez said the farm gate price of onions is still at P300 to P350 a kilo, but this climbs to P500 when sold to the public.
“Kung hindi matapos-tapos iyong pagtaas ng presyo na ito, ang gagawin na lang natin siguro is iisa lang – a palliative or iyong sinasabi natin na short-term solution – which is importation of the commodity,” he said in a Laging Handa public briefing.
(If this price increase would not stop, maybe what we would do is this one thing – a palliative or so-called short-term solution – which is the importation of the commodity.)
Estoperez, however, reiterated that the DA will be careful in treading the importation route with onions so as to balance the demands of both farmers and consumers.
Based on an estimate from the Bureau of Plant and Industry, Estoperez said the upcoming harvest season of local onions this month will yield 19,000 metric tons of the crop.
He likewise noted that there are also continuous harvesting of white onions in some fields, including those in Nueva Ecija.
“Iyon ang in-e-expect natin na hihila ng presyo ng ating sibuyas sa ating mga merkado pero it seems na kung ganito pa rin ang sitwasyon na ang farm gate prices ay hindi pa rin bumababa, mukhang mapipilitan tayo, kahit sabihin natin na nag-iingat tayo, na gamitin iyong band-aid solution ng pag-import,” the DA official explained.
(We expect that to pull down the price of onion in our markets, but it seems that if the situation of high farm gate prices persists, it looks like we’ll be forced to resort to the band-aid solution of importation, even if we say we’ll be careful in doing so.)
Estoperez said the rampant smuggling of onions remains a burden in the country’s agricultural market, noting that the DA – like the Bureau of Customs (BOC) – will not condone this practice.
READ: Smugglers’ brains fail: BOC finds P17M onions in ukay-ukay
But what will authorities do with this large volume of smuggled onions?
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. earlier said the government was considering releasing these smuggled crop into the market to increase supply and hopefully bring prices down.
While many people have likewise pointed out that the smuggled onions would go to waste if not sold to the public, Estoperez said they must first ensure that no laws are being violated by doing so.
It also must be subjected to phytosanitary inspections, he added.
“Ang isa pa riyan, illegal [goods] iyan eh. Kung ito-tolerate natin, ilalabas natin sa merkado, mukhang hindi naman tama iyon. Iyon ay pinag-aaralan natin bago ilabas ito lalong lalo na kung gusto natin pababain ang presyo pero ang masasaktan naman ang ating magsasaka,” Estoperez noted.
(And another thing, those are illegal goods. If we’ll tolerate it and release it to our markets, that doesn’t seem right. We’re still trying to study it before selling it to the public, especially if we want to lower prices but in the end, cause harm to our farmers.)
Apart from smuggling of agricultural products, Estoperez said another growing bane to local onion producers is the existence of armyworms in planting fields.
“Mukhang tinatamaan na rin sila ngayon ng armyworms na peste kaya napipilitan sila, kahit maliit pa iyong kanilang onion bulbs, ay binubunot na rin nila,” he noted.
(It seems that they’re already being affected by the armyworms that’s why they’re forced to pull out even the small onion bulbs.)
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