Order to import 8,800-MT white onions out this month, says DA
The Philippines will, after all, import white onions as soon as possible, in a rush to head off rising retail prices and make up for supply shortfalls, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Friday.
In an interview, Agriculture Assistant Secretary Rex Estoperez said the target was to issue the import order within this month and that the DA was just finalizing the details, such as the volume of white onion imports that would be permitted.
The preliminary figure for importation is estimated at 8,800 metric tons, equivalent to two months’ worth of consumption, he said.
‘Won’t happen again’
“We believe we have to finalize the plan within this month. The issue has dragged on for too long. We do not want to reach a point where they will ask all DA officials to resign if selling prices reach P600 to P700 per kilogram again. They are saying we should all resign if prices remain high,” Estoperez told reporters.
Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban had said the department was closely looking into the supply situation and stressed that the price spike in the edible bulb’s prices won’t be repeated.
“It won’t happen again. We are assuring that,” he told reporters, referring to the price hikes that Filipino consumers experienced last December, where the price of onions rose above P720 per kg at one point.
White onions to be imported will be allowed mainly to meet the requirement of institutional buyers. Yet, Estoperez hinted at the possibility of purchasing red onions although the country still has enough supply.
“We are not prioritizing institutional buyers. We can also import red onions also but we still have our [existing] inventory. We can calculate the volume of red onions to be sourced from abroad because the prices are not fluctuating. It is consistently high,” he added.
Eric Alvarez, part of the board of directors of a producers’ cooperative at Barangay Vega in Nueva Ecija, said the timing of the planned importation is too early.
“The timing of the government’s plan to import onions is too early. Cold storage facilities in Nueva Ecija are filled to the brim with onions. Not all onions in storage facilities are owned by traders. We hope the government will consult farmers first before even deciding whether or not to import,” he said.
Alvarez also said the best time to authorize any importation would be August in order to itemize all the stocks in cold storage facilities and determine the volume of onions to be procured.
Estoperez also said the DA may issue a directive to impose a suggested retail price (SRP) by Monday.
“Now we also have to check if consumers are getting a fair price because, come August or September and we have no supply or inventory, then we really need to import. But the harvest of our farmers are already considered in our equation,” he said.
The DA official said implementing a price cap is not urgent, but should the agency decide to have one, the price should be reasonable for producers and market vendors so everyone will earn a profit.
Local red and white onions are sold from P160 to P200 per kg as of Friday from only P80 per kg and P70 per kg, respectively, according to the DA’s price monitoring.
Imported red onions and white onions are not available in Metro Manila markets.
Aside from importation and SRP, the DA signaled the necessity to coordinate with local government units to monitor the release of onions in cold storage facilities in their respective jurisdictions.
Estoperez earlier said doing so would strengthen the government’s police power over this issue.