Price body meets over onion prices, supply woes

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TRADE Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual has convened a special meeting of the National Price Coordinating Council (NPCC), which he chairs, to discuss measures to mitigate the effects on consumers of rising prices of onion and stabilize its supply.

In the NPCC meeting attended by national government agencies that are also members of the council, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said that “some legal actions and possible solutions” to soaring prices were discussed extensively.

DTI said in a statement the members of the body came up with interagency initiatives to address the rising prices of onions.

“Given this crucial situation, we are to deliver immediate results to temper the prices of goods and ensure the availability of affordable basic necessities and prime commodities for consumers,” said the DTI chief.

Pascual said the DTI will tap other agencies who can be “allies” in addressing the situation.

Prices of red onions skyrocketed to more than P700 per kilo in late-December 2022 to early-January.

To temper the commodity’s retail prices, the Department of Agriculture (DA) recently greenlit the importation of 21,060 metric tons (MT) of fresh yellow and red onions, but the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) said only about 5,000 MT were issued sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances (SPSICs) as importers showed weak appetite for the import program due to various factors.

As imported supplies started to enter the country, the retail price of onions plunged on Monday to a low of P200 per kilogram.

The latest price monitoring report by the Department of Agriculture (DA) showed that prevailing retail prices of local red onions in Metro Manila markets have subsided to P200 to P350 per kilogram, from the peak of P700 per kilogram on the average.

The DTI, as one of the implementing agencies of the Price Act, said it has been assisting the DA in monitoring prices of some agricultural products.

For instance, upon the publication of the suggested retail price (SRP) for red onions, the Trade department said Pascual immediately deployed price monitoring teams across the country to check its prices and supply in wet markets and supermarkets. Further, Pascual led the monitoring Taskforce of the Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau (FTEB) during the Ikot Palengke Program.

“The Department is committed to assist DA in ensuring the availability of affordable red onions in the market and to stabilize market prices. Through the NPCC, the DTI assures the general public that the government is working hand-in-hand to address this issue, particularly the supply chain from the farmgate to the retailer, or to borrow the words of the President, ‘from farm to table,’” the Trade department said on Wednesday.

Under Republic Act No. 7581 (RA7581), or the Price Act, as amended, the DA has jurisdiction over agricultural basic necessities and prime commodities (BNPCs) such as rice, corn, cooking oil, and all agricultural and other marine products, fresh eggs, fresh pork, beef and poultry meat, fresh milk, fresh vegetables, root crops, sugar, fresh fruits, onion, garlic, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, poultry, swine and cattle feeds, among others.