San Fernando, Pampanga—Wrong timing and other reasons are behind the poor harvest and low profits of Nueva Ecija’s onion farmers, a Department of Agriculture official said.
Instead of planting as early as last October, the farmers planted from December to January—when the market was oversupplied with imported onion, which made it hard for them to recover their investments, said Benjamin Baltazar, DA operations officer in Central Luzon.
While onion farmers in Tarlac are enjoying the fruit of their early labor, Baltazar said their counterparts in 22 towns of Nueva Ecija were selling their produce at very low prices for immediate cash needed to finance the next planting season.
Traditionally, farmers store their produce and release them to the market just in time during the season for more profit. But, “planting onion from December to January was too late and not profitable, while the best time is still October,” the DA official said.
Central Luzon has 11,000 hectares of land planted with onion—10,000 hectares in Nueva Ecija to just 1,000 for Tarlac. Other onion-producing provinces in the country are Mindoro and Iloilo.
According to Baltazar, each hectare produces about to 10 to 15 tons of onion per harvest. At the moment, onion prices are P19 to P22 per kilo of yellow onions and P14 to P18 for the red variety.
Owing to the oversupply of imported onions, local growers sell their produce at prices lower than their cost of production just to recover their investment and finance the next season.
Another reason is that regular buyers, mostly Chinese merchants, have temporarily stopped buying from local growers, Baltazar said. Storage facilities controlled by businessmen who want to earn more at the expense of farmers are also a factor, he added.
Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol has ordered the suspension of onion bulb importation pending the result of the investigation conducted by the Philippines Competition Commission and the National Bureau of Investigation, as cartels are reportedly manipulating onion prices for profit.
Pinol hopes the investigation will normalize the prices of onion for the benefit of local farmers.
In another development, Baltazar said the diversion of irrigation water from Pampanga and Bulacan to other areas had no effect on rice farmers in Central Luzon, as they are already harvesting their palay.