Onion importers given till January 27 to ship supply to PH
MANILA, Philippines — Licensed importers of red and yellow onions have until Jan. 27 to complete their shipments to the country, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).
The department has resorted to importing 17,100 metric tons (MT) of red onions and 3,960 MT of yellow onions, or a total of 21,060 MT, to arrest price surges in the local market.
The importation orders were made ahead of the onion harvest season set to begin in February, as the DA itself noted in its Jan. 6 memo addressed to the importers.
Under “strict monitoring,” the shipments may enter only through the Port of Manila-South Harbor, Port of Subic, Port of Cebu, Port of Davao, and Port of Cagayan de Oro, it said.
The crops should have secured sanitary and phytosanitary clearances at their country of origin before shipment.
Once brought to accredited cold storage facilities, “no mixing… is allowed. Fresh yellow onion and fresh red onion should be properly sorted and stored in separate rooms,” the DA stressed.
Why that much?
Batches missing the Jan. 27 deadline “shall be considered invalid’’ and will be shipped back to their country of origin, with the importers shouldering the cost.
Explaining the approved volume of the imports, DA deputy spokesperson Rex Estoperez said it was “based on market needs, in the meantime that the local harvest has not peaked, [which is expected] in mid-February to May.”
Local onion growers particularly in Nueva Ecija expect the harvest season to start in February and last till April, according to Danilo Fausto, president of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food.
Around that period, the government may be able to “pull down prices,” Estoperez said at Tuesday’s Laging Handa briefing.
He said Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban, the memo’s signatory, first sent it to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who is concurrent agriculture secretary, “for his info and approval.”
“Definitely they talked. Usec (Panganiban) wouldn’t sign it if he (Mr. Marcos) was not consulted first,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III, however, questioned the timing of the importation for being close to harvest time.
“It will not do our farmers and consumers any good if we import at this point,” Pimentel said. “Now we will bite into the trap and if we… agree with the importation of onions, we will now be affecting the local farmers.”
READ: Hontiveros says ‘wait and see’ local onion farmers’ harvest first before importing crop
Pimentel urged consumers to boycott or “minimize our consumption” of imported onions.
Also opposed to the DA’s move, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura executive director Jayson Cainglet said “another round of onion imports will not guarantee reduced retail prices if the DA will remain useless in addressing the gap between the farm-gate and retail prices.”
Federation of Free Farmers chair Leonardo Montemayor added: “After suffering these past few years from losses caused by high production costs, pests, and weather disturbances, farmers now face a man-made calamity — government’s decision to allow onion imports during harvest time.”
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