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Plan to import onions doesn’t address the issue of low farmgate prices: Imee

The Department of Agriculture’s (DA) intention to import onions this December is anticipated to have an impact on at least eight provinces, Senator Imee Marcos said on Thursday.

In a statement, Marcos singled out the provinces of Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Norte, and Ilocos Sur as being particularly ready to harvest by the second week of December.

According to Marcos, who was citing a monitoring report from the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) that also showed an expected yield of 5,537.3 metric tons of red onions this month out of the total expected yield of 12,837.9 MT until February next year, “more than 43 percent of red onion harvests in the next three months will take place in December, with Mindoro’s harvests to follow in January.”

However, the BPI noted that the combination of the anticipated yield for next month and the 13,043.37 metric tons of stock being monitored are expected to result in a shortage of supplies because of crop damage from Severe Tropical Storm Paeng in October and rising consumer demand during the holiday season.

The BPI has advised importing onions due to market prices that range from PHP280 to PHP400 per kilo.

Were our farmers forgotten? The issue of high consumer prices is being addressed, but what about our farmers, who are suffering from farmgate prices that are only covering 50% of the cost of production? Marcos enquired.

Compared to the PHP45 to PHP55 per kilo that farmers’ groups claim they need to break even at harvest season, ignoring the expense of cold storage, farmgate prices in mid-November ranged from PHP25 to PHP27 per kilo.

Importation has been a component of a cycle of price manipulation by traders working with dishonest DA and Bureau of Customs employees.

We are left with the band-aid solution of imports if stockpiling and smuggling are ignored, Marcos added.

“Local crops are hoarded to create a false shortage, then sold when demand from consumers drives market prices up. The demand for importation, which lowers farmgate prices, is then supported by high pricing. Smugglers profit from misdeclared and undervalued imports, while traders acquire the produce from local farmers at low prices and store it once more, she continued.

Low harvest profits, according to Marcos, the chair of the Senate Committee on Cooperatives, would force farmers’ cooperatives to make concessions to traders vying for import permits, leaving small farmers unable to pay for dry and cold storage, which she alleges has “already been cartelized.”

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