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Monday, April 15, 2024

DA exec rules out option to import onion as farm harvest season starts

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Any plans to import onion any time soon to boost domestic supply and arrest rising prices of the commodity is off the table since local farmers are already harvesting, Senior Agriculture Undersecretary Domingo F. Panganiban said.

In a press briefing, Panganiban emphasized that the Department of Agriculture (DA) will not authorize the importation of any onion, whether red or white, as some farmers have started harvesting, which he noted is expected to pick up starting next month.

Panganiban issued the statement despite admitting that the country’s current onion supply is insufficient to meet domestic demand, especially during this Christmas season.

“It is not sufficient. It is short. But we are harvesting now and next month, so why should we import? We have harvests in January and February,” he said on Monday.

The DA earlier disclosed that it was tinkering about allowing the importation of onion as a measure to temper skyrocketing prices of the commodity amid thin supply.

Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) President Danilo V. Fausto said any onion importation plans right now would be “ill timed” since some farmers are indeed harvesting their produce already.

Fausto, however, urged the government to already be proactive in preparing for an onion importation program next year given that the country annually suffers from shortage of the commodity.

Fausto noted that the country lacks at least 40,000 metric tons (MT) in onion supply due to limited capacity of local production.

The prevailing price of onion in Metro Manila markets has now reached P380 per kilogram from just P300 per kilogram last week, based on market reports of the DA.

As early as August, the DA revealed the country would suffer a shortage of key ingredients in making Filipino dishes, such as white onion and garlic, as total supplies, even with imports, are insufficient to meet overall demand for the commodities.

In October, the DA was forced to issue a suggested retail price (SRP) on red onion at P170 per kilogram in its bid to address the rising prices of the commodity in the market. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2022/10/11/da-issues-srp-for-red-onions-sold-in-metro-wet-markets/)

The DA decided not to issue import permits for another round of white onion importation earlier this year to prevent farm-gate prices from being depressed.

The Philippines self-sufficiency ratio (SSR) in onions last year fell to a three-year low at 68.2 percent, PSA data showed. This meant that nearly 7 out of 10 onions consumed in the country are locally produced.

The PSA defines SSR as the “magnitude of production in relation to domestic utilization.” It is the extent to which a country’s supply of commodities is derived from its domestic production or the extent to which a country relies on its own production resources.

The Philippines produced 218,047 metric tons of onion last year and imported 101,681 metric tons of the commodity, based on PSA data.

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