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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

‘Congress must probe surge in onion prices’

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The Makabayan bloc has called on Congress to investigate the potential overpricing and price manipulation of onions in the market.

In House Resolution 673, Gabriel Rep. Arlene Brosas, Act Teachers Rep. France Castro and Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel said there are reasons to believe that there is an “ongoing control and manipulation” of onion prices from farmgate to market retail by big traders who store onions in cold storage warehouses.

The lawmakers said large traders, importers, and even smugglers profit hugely from onions’ high prices, while consumers shell out more to purchase onions as a result.

From September to October 2022, the solons said the price of white onion began to go up, rising to around P300-P400 per kilogram.

As of December 28, 2022, they added that the Department of Agriculture (DA) reported that the price of local red onions was between P500 and P720 per kg, while the price of local white onions was P600 per kg.

“Such price level of onions surpassed the highest daily minimum wage in the country at P570, and was way higher than the per-kilogram cost of pork in the market,” said the lawmakers in the resolution.

Based on news reports, the lawmaker said the farmgate price of onions in mid-November 2022 was just P25 to P27 per kg.

“Despite the low farmgate price of onion, its retail price in markets and stores has continued to increase. Such huge discrepancy indicates potential price manipulation which makes onions more expensive. Aside from that, smuggling and over-importation of onions remain major problems, which also severely affect local supply and prices,” they added.

Traders purchase onions from farmers at a low price and sell them at a higher price during times of high demand season, lawmakers said.

According to the solons, an estimated 100,000 kg of yellow onions worth P30 million that were smuggled were seized by the authorities in late November 2022 or at a time when the price of onions were escalating.

The DA also pegged the suggested retail price for onion at P250 per kg, which will be in effect until the first week of January, but lawmakers said such a short-term measure has so far failed to bring down the overall price of onions in the market.

The Makabayan bloc said President and Agriculture chief Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is “directly accountable for failing to address the problem of onion price spike despite the widespread concerns of consumers, and must be compelled to stop traders and smugglers in profiteering from the situation.”

With this, the bloc said that the House of Representatives through the Committee on Agriculture and Food should immediately conduct an investigation, in aid of legislation, on the potential overpricing and price manipulation of onions in the market.

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