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Philippines to import 21,060MT yellow, red onions to temper prices

The Department of Agriculture (DA) has given the green light for the importation of 21,060 metric tons of onions to fill a supply gap and arrest the continuous spike in the price of the commodity in the market.

In a letter to Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI)-licensed onion importers dated January 6, the DA said it will issue sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance (SPSIC) for the importation of fresh yellow and fresh red onion from January 9 to January 13, 2023.

Licensed importers are given until January 27, 2023 for their shipments to arrive in the country.

The volume allowed for importation are broken down as follows:

  •     Fresh yellow onion - 3,960 metric tons
  •     Fresh red onion - 17,100 metric tons

One SPSIC of 25 metric tons for yellow onions and two SPSIC for 50 metric tons for red onions will be issued equally to all licensed importers during the issuance period.

Importers who failed to utilize the issued SPSIC will not be eligible to apply for the succeeding issuances of SPSIC for fresh onion.

The importation is aimed “to address the supply gap prior to peak harvest in 2023 and to stabilize the continuous increase in price of fresh onions in the market.”

Inflation rate in December accelerated to 8.1%, a fresh 14-year high. The Philippine Statistics Authority noted that onions contributed about 0.3 percentage point to the overall inflation.

Late December, the price of red onions jacked up to over P700 per kilo in some Metro Manila markets amid a local supply deficiency of the commodity.

The DA’s price monitoring data as of January 10 showed the price of local red and white onions in Metro Manila markets range from P420 to P600 per kilo.

The ports of entry for the onion shipments shall only be in Port of Manila-South Harbor, Port of Subic, Port of Cebu, Port of Davao, and Port of Cagayan de Oro “for strict monitoring purposes.”

Several onion farmers earlier expressed worry over the looming importation of onion which may coincide with harvest season in February.

In a Super Radyo dzBB interview earlier in the day, DA deputy spokesperson Rex Estoperez said they reduced the proposed 22,000 metric tons to 21,060 metric tons, and requested the imported onions arrive on an earlier date.

“Mga 940 metric tons ang binawas. Saka ‘yung sinabi namin kahapon na basta dumating ‘yan by end of January and not later than the first week of February, mukhang binago din ‘yun. Ginawang, it must arrive on January 27,” he said.

(About 940 metric tons were deducted. Also, what we said yesterday that as long as they arrive by the end of January and not later than the first week of February, was also changed. The imported onions must now arrive on January 27.)

Price manipulation

In a separate interview with GMA News’ Unang Balita, Estoperez said DA is also looking at price manipulation as one of the reasons for the high cost of onions in public markets.

He said he received reports that certain “negotiations” happen in Moncada, Tarlac and Bongabon, Nueva Ecija wherein agents sell standing crops of onions to the highest bidder.

“At P350… i-times two mo ‘yan, patungan ng traders hanggang sa retailers, P700 pa rin. Kung mababa ang presyo sa ating mga farm gates, sana masawata natin itong pagtaas presyo doon sa ating mga traders,” he said.

(If the onions are P350, they are still sold for P700 in market if multiplied by two by traders and retailers. If the price is low at our farm gates, I hope we can stop the prices from increasing due to the traders.)

“Pero ‘yung manipulation, pumapasok ho do’n sa ano eh… Ito ang pagkukulang ng Department of Agriculture, 'yung sa supply chain. ‘Yung may ahente na, may traders pa. Ang sasabihin nila na kulang ang gastos nila sa pag-transport ng sibuyas from the production area to the market. Mukhang ‘yun ang malaki po,” he added.

(This is where the manipulation comes in. The DA has lapses in the supply chain. They have agents and traders, and say they need money to transport onions from the production area to the market. That seems to be the big problem.)

Senator Cynthia Villar on Monday said a cartel could be behind the high prices of onions in local markets, citing a 2013 investigation that showed that there is an onion cartel that has "complete control" over the supply in the country.—AOL, GMA Integrated News