DA, DTI in talks to address high price of red onions
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is in talks with the Department of Agriculture (DA) on ways to address the high price of red onions in markets, including how to enforce the government’s suggested retail price (SRP).
“We’re still discussing with the DA how DTI can come in for augmentation,” Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo, head of the DTI’s consumer protection group, told the Inquirer.
Castelo said that the DTI had been monitoring the price and supply of red onions in wet markets and supermarkets in Metro Manila since Dec. 30.
As of Jan. 2, the agricultural commodity was selling at between P450 and P600 per kilo at Muntinlupa Public Market, Kalentong Public Market in Mandaluyong, and Quinta and Central markets in Manila. The next day, based on the DA’s market monitoring, they were priced between P400 and P700 per kilo.
On Dec. 29, the DA issued an order setting the price of red onions in Metro Manila wet markets at P250 per kilo until the first week of January in response to its continuously rising price.
Castelo said in an earlier radio interview that those who fail to comply with the SRP would be charged, saying that despite the word “suggested,” violators could still be penalized for profiteering.
With onion prices remaining high, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has continued to deal with agricultural smuggling as it intercepted P17 million worth of yellow onions found in between sacks of “ukay-ukay” (used clothing) valued at P2 million during a spot check of three containers from China on Dec. 23.
The shipments consigned to SB Express Logistics and Business Solution Inc. were declared as various clothing and home products. But instead of plastic buckets, women’s blouses and slippers, dish plates, and cat litter, they yielded yellow onions.
Customs Commissioner Yogi Filemon Ruiz, in a statement, said that aside from the shipments that were issued alert orders, seven other containers consigned to SB Express Logistics and Business Solution Inc. were put on hold.
The examination of the shipments was witnessed by representatives from the DA, Bureau of Plant Industry, Chamber of Customs Brokers Inc., and officials of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service.
Ruiz lamented that while many small business owners were paying the correct fees to bring in used clothing legally, unscrupulous groups were bringing in millions of pesos worth of the same items without going through the proper process.
Customs Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Juvymax Uy said that the BOC’s operations against agricultural smuggling were being done in coordination with the DA.
The BOC has seized hundreds of millions worth of shipments that contain agricultural products this month alone, he added.
President Marcos has considered releasing the smuggled onions into the country’s markets to increase supply and hopefully bring prices down.
However, lawmakers from the House of Representatives’ Makabayan bloc said that this would be a mere stopgap measure and suggested that the government instead provide subsidies to farmers to help them increase their yield.