Amid an ongoing probe of the alleged cartel on the prices of bulb onions, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol has announced that the Agriculture department will suspend the importation of the crop.
The alleged cartel has been accused of causing the prices of the crop to go down due to oversupply.
Piñol said the DA will stop the importation of onion “pending the results of the investigation of the Philippine Competition Commission and the National Bureau of Investigation into the reported operations of a cartel manipulating the buying price of locally-produced onions.”
The Agriculture secretary said this move could stop the cartel from benefiting from their operations “where they forced the drop in the buying price of local onions by leasing and closing cold storage facilities to onion farmers.”
Concerned government agencies said the prices of onion have gone down due to excessive supply glutting the market, on the back of the harvest season and the availability of imported onions, forcing farmers to sell their produce at low prices just to recover their capital.
In Nueva Ecija, for instance, onions are sold at P15 to P16 per kilo.
“The DA on Wednesday asked the PCC and NBI to investigate reports that trading firms have closed down four major cold storage facilities in an apparent attempt to force farmers to sell at low prices,” Piñol said.
“The traders are expected to consolidate the local production as they await the time when they will be allowed to import,” he added.
Piñol said that with the farmers forced to sell their produce at very low prices, traders could control the pricing of onion in the market and generate huge profits.
“Under an arrangement between farmers groups and importers, the importation of onions would only be done after the harvest of the local onions,” Piñol said.
Pinol added that the DA has already ordered the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) to support the arrangement by scheduling the processing of Sanitary and Pytho-Sanitary (SPS) permits until after the harvest season, Piñol said.
On the other hand, no SPS permits have been issued since October, the BPI has reported.
“The moratorium on the issuance of SPS permits will be extended until such time the PCC and NBI have terminated their investigation,” Piñol said.