Onion SRP plan on hold pending validation of farmers’ growing costs

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said its plan to impose a suggested retail price (SRP) on domestically-grown red and white onions is currently on hold pending validation of the costs incurred by farmers in growing the commodity.

“It was announced that we will be adopting an SRP but has not yet been signed by Senior Undersecretary (Domingo F. Panganiban). According to him… the cost structure (should) be studied further,” Agriculture Assistant Secretary Rex C. Estoperez said in a briefing on Wednesday.

The department announced last week that it estimated the SRP for red onions at P150 per kilo and white onions at P140 per kilo following industry consultations.

For now, he said the DA will continue to monitor onion inventories held in cold storage.

Mr. Estoperez said the DA is cautious in setting SRPs. Earlier this year the price cap was set at P250 per kilo, which many vendors did not honor.

The cost of red onion peaked at P720 per kilo in December.

Jayson H. Cainglet, executive director of Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura, said the organization does not understand why the DA has delayed the announcement.

“We do not know what’s keeping the DA from issuing the SRP. What they need once it has issued is to be aggressive,” he said.

“Everyone already agreed (on an appropriate price) — producers, cold storage operators, wholesalers, retailers. It’s a question for us what’s keeping them from issuing an agreement that everyone has reached a consensus on,” he added.

Mr. Cainglet said cold storage operators he consulted, particularly in the onion-growing center of Bongabon, Nueva Ecija, are selling onions at P90-P100 based on guidance given at the consultation.

“In the cost structure that we discussed for onions, we have already established (what prices constitute profiteering),” he said.

Mr. Cainglet said price monitoring councils of local government units have been mobilized and are awaiting the SRP announcement.

Ngayon, hindi sila pwedeng manghuli or at least pagsabihan ’yung retailers hanggang hindi nilalabas ’yung SRP (They cannot apprehend any retailers until the SRP is released),” he said.

Mr. Estoperez said the DA is coordinating with the Department of Trade and Industry and wants to tap the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police.

As of Tuesday, the prevailing price of domestic red onion in Metro Manila was between P100 and P200 while white onion was selling for between P150 and P200. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera