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Farmers fear losses due to imported onions, P125/kg SRP

Local onion farmers worry they would suffer losses, not only because they are competing with cheaper imported onions, but also because the government is about to impose a P125 per kilo suggested retail price on red onions.

According to Maki Pulido and Tina Panganiban-Perez’s report on “24 Oras” on Tuesday, the Department of Agriculture (DA) will implement the onion SRP on Wednesday, February 8.

This will further reduce the prices of the imported onions which currently sell at P160 per kilo at the Mega Q Mart in Quezon City. Local red onions are priced at P270 per kilo.

“Sobrang lugi na sila given na ‘yung cost of production ay napakataas… Gustuhin man nilang i-keep ‘yung produkto kung baba naman yung presyo nun wala naman silang cold storage facilities,” said Bantay Bigas Spokesperson Cathy Estavillo.

(Their losses are going to be significant given that their cost of production is expensive. Even if they wanted to keep their produce because prices are too low, they can't because they don't have any cold storage facilities.)

Some onion farmers in Vintar, Ilocos Norte are now feeling the effects of the importation which coincided with the February to April harvest season.

They now stand to lose P20,000 per hectare after farmgate prices plummeted to P100 per kilo, the report said.

“Mababa pa. Sana P200, lulusot kami dun… kasi konti lang harvest namin ngayon,” a farmer said.

(It's too low. If it was P200, we could eke through because we weren't able to harvest much.)

For its part, the DA advised the farmers to lower their prices to compete with the imported red onions.

The department added that farmgate prices could be lowered to P50, with landed prices at P100 per kilo.

“Ang cost lang is really less than P20. Now you give margin naman sa magsasaka kaya sabi namin at P50 that’s very fair,” said DA Assistant Secretary Kristine Evangelista.

Evangelista also said the Agriculture Department had projects that would support farmers — a move Bantay Bigas hoped would be implemented to stop the “vicious cycle” of farmers suffering while traders and cartels benefit.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives declared an “all-out war” against cartels hoarding supplies of onions and other agricultural products to manipulate their prices.

“My message: moderate your greed, release the supply… give us fair prices. If not, your days are numbered. We're going after you,” Speaker Martin Romualdez said.

Legislators sought the help of the DA and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to identify the hoarders and said they want to invite businessmen in their legislative inquiries on the prices of onion.

However, House Committee on Agriculture and Food Representative Mark Enverga said the DA did not have a list of traders nor the locations of their supplies.

“Ang data na meron lang po ang DA is hanggang from farm... wala po silang listahan kung yung traders at nasaan na po ang supply,” he said.

Apart from the investigation, the lawmakers also want to declare hoarding “economic sabotage.” — Sundy Mae Locus/DVM, GMA Integrated News