DA sets solons’ briefingon onion interventions

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OFFICIALS of the Department of Agriculture (DA) will brief the House of Representatives on Tuesday (January 24) on the state of the country’s onion industry and the interventions being done to address the current issues.

The House Committee on Agriculture, chaired by Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga, called for a briefing as some of the recently imported onions have reportedly arrived in the country.

House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Joey Sarte Salceda, during the hearing of his committee, revealed that onions at P400 here in the Philippines are only P23.7 in Bangladesh—the cheapest world price.

Also, he said sugar at P90 here is sold at P17.6 in Pakistan.

Salceda also pointed out that the onion price crisis “is very solvable.”

“The price is very artificial. The domestic retail price of onions domestically is 17 times the cheapest price in Bangladesh and 4.5 times the world average,” he said.

“The onion sector is high yielding, it seems, with some 14 tons per hectare in average production. Actually, when irrigated properly, it can produce up to 25 tons per hectare,” he added.

According to Salceda, the country’s onion supply deficit is about 22.1 percent of total demand, or about 80,700 tons out of total demand of 363,000 tons.

“Just produce 5 more tons per hectare, or plant 5,700 hectares more of onion, and you’re essentially good. That’s just a bit over the size of the city of Caloocan City, and your entire onion self-sufficiency is addressed,” he said.

Salceda suspected that “farmers were low-balled because their produce rots in 3 days after harvest, the supply was withheld from the market when the DA decided not to issue any new import clearances. And then the smugglers now both control importing as well as prices.”

“Just give farmers cold storage so they don’t have to sell to cartellists, keep imports flowing in limited numbers that can undercut price bubbles, and you will see those prices fall very quickly,” he added.

For his part, Anakalusugan Rep. Ray Reyes said the prices of agricultural commodities  are much lower in other countries than in the Philippines, leading to smuggling.

“The large price disparity compared to that of the rest of the world leads unscrupulous individuals to dip their hands into the P5 billion annual smuggling haul,” he said.

“The Bureau of Customs and the Department of Agriculture must take immediate action to address this social injustice and protect farmers and the economy,” he added.