The price of white onions in local markets spiked to as high as P400 a kilo on Thursday, with few vendors selling the suddenly rare commodity—and those that did refusing to sell piecemeal to regular retail buyers.
This developed as the Bureau of Customs (BOC) reported it confiscated smuggled carrots declared as chocolates at the Manila North Harbor Port on Aug. 16.
Meanwhile, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. discussed with his Cabinet the proposals to ensure food security, boost the energy sector, and improve the national government’s housing program.
The Department of Agriculture (DA), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) presented their plans during the meeting convened by Marcos at Malacañang Palace, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said.
Mr. Marcos stressed the need to solve the logistics problem in the agriculture sector to lower food prices in the country.
He said this after the issues on the movement of agricultural products were raised, including complaints of forwarders and cargo handlers on policies imposed by local government units (LGUs), as well as the presence of many checkpoints.
“We cannot afford to do that anymore.
The logistical challenge is clear, and we are not handling it,” Mr. Marcos, as quoted by the Presidential News Desk (PND), said.
The suggestions are still being fine-tuned, Cruz-Angeles said, adding that more details would be made public “at the convenience of the departments involved.”
Television reports indicated that local restaurants had already snapped up available stocks of white onions from supplies in Nueva Ecija, while middlemen said they had no white onions to sell for several days now because the local harvest season for the vegetable ended several months ago.
The prices of other vegetables also rose by P5 to P10 per kilo at the Marikina and Pasig public markets, according to an ABS-CBN report.
The Bongabon, Nueva Ecija Farmers’ Association confirmed in the report the lack of supply of white onions in the country. The Central Luzon region, where the province is located, is the second largest onion-producing area in the country after the Ilocos Region.
Hernan Andres, a member of the group, told Teleradyo that white onion supplies were running out fast since it could not be held in stock for long, and not all farmers plant the vegetable.
Farmers were also grappling with the steep cost of fertilizers, Andres added, as he called on the government to give them added support.
The Manila International Container Port said an inventory by the Bureau of Plant Industry, which tipped Customs of the carrot shipment from China, is ongoing to determine its total value. The consignee of the shipment was not identified.
The carrots will undergo seizure and disposal proceedings as the shipment violated Sections 1113 (Property Subject to Seizure and Forfeiture), 117 (Regulated Importation and Exportation), and 1401 (Unlawful Importation and Exportation) of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), BPI-National Plant Quarantine Service’s Rules and Regulations for the Importation of Plant products, and Republic Act No. 10845 or the “Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016.”
Jojo Villarosa, a vegetable supplier, said in Filipino: “No imported (onions) are coming in, and these are the times when we depend on purely imported stocks, as the local white onions are only produced over the two-month harvest period.”
Some restaurants have been forced to use more red onions in their recipes, admitted “sisig” vendor Edgar Albitos, who preferred to use the white bulbs for his signature pork dish.
It didn’t help that the prices of meat in local markets averaged from P290 to P310 per kilo of pork, and P280 to P290 for chicken.
District Collector Romeo Allan Rosales said the MICP would further enhance measures to improve its border protection programs against the entry of smuggled agricultural products like the carrot shipment.
At the Palace, Cruz-Angeles said after the Cabinet meeting: “We cannot release the details because the proposals were discussed just this morning. So, there will be revisions and refinements,” she said.
The Press Secretary said the DA, currently headed by Mr. Marcos, presented initiatives to boost food production in the country.
The President, in his first State of the Nation Address on July 25, vowed to modernize Philippine agriculture by relying on research and technology.
The DA is heading for an immediate tweaking of the value-chain system in the country to address pressing concerns, such as rising agricultural commodity and farm input prices.
Local Government Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. said he would discuss with Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. and Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual the revival of express lanes for food trucks, a move which was first carried out during pandemic-induced lockdowns.
Abalos said express lanes would make the cargo movements “free-flowing.”
Another possible solution raised during the Cabinet meeting was the use of technology to determine areas with good harvest, allowing the government to bring their produce to areas with short food supply.
“For instance, agricultural products will be tracked along the way to identify bottlenecks and raise possible issues with the concerned LGU with the help of the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government),” the statement read.