THE AGRICULTURE department is closely monitoring the movement of traders for possible hoarding of onion supply after the recent renewed spike in prices in retail markets, an official said on Monday.
“We are looking at the selling of our farmers. Who buys, how long, and how the traders release their stocks from the cold storage facility,” Department of Agriculture (DA) Spokesperson Kristine Y. Evangelista said in Filipino in a media briefing.
“For us to see that the amount of onions in the market might be dependent on the release of traders of their onions in cold storage and at the same time, the price in the market,” she said.
Ms. Evangelista said Agriculture Assistant Secretary for Inspectorate and Enforcement James A. Layug is coordinating the tracking of inflow and outflow in cold storage facilities.
She said they will also look into onion farmgate price, currently ranging between P100 to P120 per kilogram, higher than the P60 in the same period last year.
“It all goes back to the farmgate price. We cannot say simply that the price is so high and blame it on one specific sector in the value chain, so we want to go back to our farmer.”
“Now, how will we help our farmers bring down the farmgate price? That is another issue that we have to discuss,” she added.
Further, as the harvest season is about to end, she said the department will evaluate the “bottlenecks” in the value chain.
Jayson H. Cainglet, executive director of farmers’ group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura, said the retail price of onion in the market should not exceed P200 per kilogram.
“If the [retail price] exceeds P200, it is not the farmer who is earning but others in the value chain of the onion industry,” he told reporters via Zoom.
Ms. Evangelista said that they plan to first import white onions based on data provided by the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).
BPI Spokesman Jose Diego E. Roxas said in a Viber message last week that the country’s supply of white onions as of April was at 12,843.35 metric tons (MT), which will last until September.
The supply of red onions, on the other hand, was 98,393.86 MT “which may be sufficient to cover local demand until November.”
Mr. Cainglet said they are waiting for the BPI’s total inventory of supply from local harvests and cold storages to determine the needed volume of onions to be imported.
He said initial estimates indicate the country needs to import at least 7,500 MT of white onions based on their proposal last year, while it may not be necessary to import red onions.
“There is an assumption of shortage as the end users such as restaurants used [red onions] as substitute to white [onions] last year that’s why there seem to be a shortage,” he said.
Ms. Evangelista said the volume and type of onion to be imported will be discussed with stakeholders.
The DA is also still assessing the need to impose a new suggested retail price (SRP) for onions.
“Now that the players seem to be clearer, maybe we don’t have to have an SRP but as part of discussions, we will explore every avenue,” she said.
As of Friday, the prevailing price of both local red and white onions stood between P150-P200 per kilogram, according to the DA’s price watch.
There was no monitoring for imported red and white onions in Metro Manila markets. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera