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Onion prices plunge; DA suspends imports

MANILA, Philippines, January 22 ------ The Department of Agriculture (DA) has ordered the suspension of onion imports as the farmgate price of white onions went down to P18 per kilo amid the flooding of imported bulbs.  


Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. met with representatives of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) to discuss the surge in domestic supply of onion due to fresh harvest and arrival of additional supply imported in December. The DA said shipment delays resulted in the arrival of 99 tons of onion imported in December between Jan. 1 and 15. 


Laurel directed the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) to halt the issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance until July as the local harvest season has started. “In principle, I agree with no onion importation until July. But that is on condition that if there is a sudden supply shortfall, we will have to import earlier. We don’t know what would happen because of El Niño,” Laurel said. Farmers in Nueva Ecija said the farmgate price of white onions had already dropped to P18 per kilo. Nueva Ecija accounts for 97 percent of onion production in Luzon. Luzon produces 65 percent of local onion supply. 


PCAFI president Danilo Fausto warned that the dumping of onions will occur if the flooding of imported onions will not be stopped. “We are projecting an oversupply of onions for 2024,” Fausto said in a message to The STAR. Fausto said that based on data from the local government unit of Nueva Ecija, there is an increase of 40 percent of the onion area planted, from 8,477 hectares in 2022 to 12,000 hectares in 2023. “The onions were planted starting September 2023 up to December 2023, the bulk of which are scheduled to be harvested in February up to May 2024. Because of the good price of onions in the market, other provinces like Tarlac, Pampanga, Bataan, Zambales and even in Mindoro, also started increasing the hectare of their onion plantation,” Fausto added. Laurel added that even with the reported infestation of armyworms in some areas in Tarlac and Nueva Ecija, the pest is only expected to damage around five percent of standing crops. 


Efren Alvarez, an onion farmer from Bongabon, said that he was forced to harvest his produce to save the white onions from the armyworms. “We are appealing to traders from Manila to buy our onions to help us,” Alvarez said. He added that bags of white onions were placed along roadsides in Nueva Ecija, hoping for buyers to come.  




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