Fines, jail time for violating P250 SRP for red onions – DA
Traders and retailers who will violate the suggested retail price (SRP) bulletin on red onions that the government is planning to issue today face fines ranging from P5,000 to P2 million and imprisonment of five to 15 years.
Assistant Secretary Kristine Evangelista of the Department of Agriculture (DA) told the Inquirer on Thursday these are the possible consequences facing noncompliant sellers or traders of the agricultural commodity. She, however, did not elaborate on this further.
She said they were considering a P250-a-kilogram SRP for red onions based on the recommendation made during a recent stakeholders’ meeting.
“What happens first is if sellers didn’t follow the SRP, they will be asked to answer a show-cause (notice). We give them a letter of inquiry asking them why their prices are high,” Evangelista said in a phone interview.
“From there, it is passed to adjudication. If there is a good reason why the prices are that way, then we go after the trader who sold them the onions at high prices,” she added.
By doing so, the agriculture official said they are able to trace the source of the problem, and determine if there is sufficient basis to file cases of price manipulation.Under the Price Act, penalties for price manipulation include imprisonment and fines.
Last October, the DA issued a directive setting an SRP of P170 a kilo to arrest the big price increases in public markets.
Consumer, biz woes
As of Dec. 29, however, locally produced red onions were still being sold from a low of P540 a kilo to a high of P700 in markets in the National Capital Region, according to the price monitoring report of the DA. Imported onions, on the other hand, were selling for P600 a kilo.This meant a more than three-fold increase from P180 to P220 a kilo a year ago.Two consumer rights groups have reacted to the high prices of red onion, urging relevant government agencies to swiftly address the problem.
Alliance of Concerned Consumers in the Philippines convenor Ritchie Horario told the Inquirer that the DA should find ways to mitigate the continued increase in the price of the commodity.
“If importation is the only way to reduce the prices of onion, then, the DA could probably allow this even during the holidays when the demand of this product is high,” he said, citing this was allowed in the case of rice to temper the rising price of the Filipino staple.
‘Crisis’ of sorts
“Although farmers and retailers are benefiting from the high cost of onion, we consumers are heavily affected by this,” Horario pointed out.Ferdie Ferido, media relations officer of Rights Action Philippines (RAP), characterized the high prices of red onion as a “crisis” of sorts, citing the wide-ranging effects of its prevailing high prices.
“It’s not as important as rice. But it’s a hard blow to industries and livelihoods,” Ferido told the Inquirer.
“[It affects] big food businesses to ‘karinderias’ (eateries), and even down to the families preparing simple meals,” he noted, citing that onion is not a food luxury but is a crucial ingredient in many dishes.
One of the suggestions made by the RAP official is for lawmakers to initiate an investigation on the cause of the skyrocketing prices of red onions.The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the country’s biggest business organization, has also called on the government to address the issue, suggesting as well that importation may offer a solution to the problem.
“Red onion is priced so high that people just avoid it for their recipes. The DA must study ways to bring it down for it to be affordable,” PCCI president George Barcelon told the Inquirer. “This is caused by shortage so importation with proper taxes paid can lower it,” he said.
Last week, the DA admitted that there is a lack of supply but reasoned that there were no plans to allow more onion imports for the remainder of the year as the harvest season is expected to begin in January.
Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban said the department was also mobilizing the Kadiwa program to stabilize prices of onions. INQ
Red onions now selling at P300 per kilogram
DA finds red onions hitting P600/kilo, still assures enough supply
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