Farmers urge government to recall onion importation order
MANILA, Philippines — Farmers have demanded that the government reverse its decision to import 21,060 metric tons of onion, alleging that they are already suffering the effects of the decision.
The first batch of imported onions–400 metric tons of yellow onions and 800 metric tons of red onions–arrived in the Philippines on Monday as part of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) “temporary, short-term” solution to tame the price boom of the agricultural commodity.
But farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) is pushing for the government to “immediately recall the importation order to prevent heavy losses and bankruptcy of our onion farmers.”
“Farmers are already feeling the brunt of the DA’s importation order. The DA must find ways and means to procure the local harvest at a reasonable price to prevent unscrupulous traders from further exploiting our farmers,” KMP chairman emeritus Rafael Mariano said in a statement on Tuesday.
He used as an example the plight of onion growers in Bayambang, Pangasinan, who increasingly depend on bank loans and investors.
“Maraming umiiyak na magsasaka. Marami kaming nalugi, hindi lang ako (Many farmers are weeping. Many of us are losing money, not just me,” the group said, quoting farmer Merlita Gallardo–who earlier appeared at a Senate committee’s inquiry into the soaring prices of onions in the country.
Mariano also pointed out that the declining retail of onion price is likewise bringing down its farmgate price.
“Kailangan gumawa ng intervention ang gobyerno at bilhin nito ang sibuyas na ani ng ating mga magsasaka – bilhin sa sapat at makatarungang presyo (The government should intervene and buy the locally harvested onions of our farmers at the right price),” Mariano said.
He urged the DA and the local government units to realign their spending plans to purchase onions from local farmers should it be deemed necessary.
Mariano also called on LGUs to consider adopting a “store now, sell later” strategy.
“Ilalagay muna ng LGU sa storage ang sibuyas ng mga magsasaka at saka ibebenta kapag maganda na ang presyo. Para makabawi man lang ang ating mga magsasaka. Kasi kung ngayon ilalabas ang lokal sibuyas, lugi talaga dahil sa imported [onions],” he explained.
(The LGUs should store the onions from our local farmers first before selling them when the prices are good, so the farmers could at least gain from their harvests. Because if they sell the local onions now, they’ll lose money since there are imported onions.)
Mariano then called for the government to extend onion farmers’ production support and cash aid.
He also underscored the need to crack down on illegal traders and smugglers of the produce who, he noted, “are behind the cartel that manipulated the supply and prices of onion that led to the onion price surge of P700 per kilo last month.”
“Mga lumang pangalan ng smugglers na naman ang lumabas – sina Leah Cruz, Manuel Tan, Jun Diamante, Andrew Chang. Mayroon pa mga bagong pangalan – sina Mike Ma, Gene Ang at Beverly Peres. Walang nahuhuli at nakakasuhan,” he said.
(Old names of smugglers resurfaced – Leah Cruz, Manuel Tan, Jun Diamante, and Andrew Chiang. There are also new names – Mike Ma, Gene Ang, and Beverly Peres. But no one was ever caught, and no cases were filed.)
Sultan Kudarat 2nd District Rep. Horacio Suansing Jr. recently bared the said names in a list of individuals and consignees allegedly involved in smuggling activities.
He also sought the House committee on ways and means to subpoena these suspected smugglers for an investigation.
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who concurrently sits at the helm of the DA, said the country was “forced to import” onions, claiming that the local supply of the agricultural commodity is not enough to meet the demands for the produce.
He said this given several lawmakers and groups who expressed concern over the DA’s decision to import 21,060 metric tons of red and yellow onions even as the local harvest season for the produce nears.
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