Sen. Imee Marcos on Monday said she will talk to her brother, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. about the rising prices of onions in the country which she said have remained “unconscionable.”
“Yes. He also knows that the Department of Agriculture (DA) should have thorough planning,” Marcos said when asked if she will bring the issue of onion shortage and spiraling cost to the President in an ambush interview in Bulacan.
The President also sits as the secretary of the DA amid calls for him to appoint a secretary to focus on the problems of the country’s agricultural industry.
Marcos noted it should not be that there’s a sudden shortage and sudden importation.
She raised doubts that smugglers, importers and traders have been manipulating the price of onions and other agricultural products. “Kasi hindi naman ito nangyayari dati, bakit biglaang nagkakaganito?” she said.
She related that farmers in Bongabon, Pangasinan, and Ilocos Norte have to harvest their onions prematurely as a temporary solution to the lack of onions.
“But the truth is we still need several weeks before we can harvest our local onions,” she said.
She related that the DA wants anew to import onions. “My fear is with the many importation of onions, prices will decline,” she said.
Sen. Cynthia A. Villar, chairperson of the Senate agriculture committee, said she supports the importation of onions in case of a shortage, but insisted that this should just be temporary.
Villar also said that a cartel might be behind the high prices of onions in the local markets. Villar, in a GMA News report, said an investigation in 2013 showed that there is an onion cartel which has “complete control” over the supply in the country.
“We have already investigated this in 2013 and we found out that there really is an onion cartel. This cartel buys the produce from local farmers at a low price and at the same time imports onions so they have the complete control over the supply. That’s why sometimes they create artificial demand so they can increase the prices. That’s what we need to solve right now,” Villar, quoted by the GMA News report, said, adding that she does not “see any other reason for the price of onions to be that high.”
As a solution, Villar said the value chain must be fixed where the local farmers can directly sell their produce to the consumers and get rid of the traders.
Over the weekend, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) urged the government to address the gap between the price of onions sold by local farmers and those at which they are bought by consumers, GMA News also reported.
According to the farmers’ group, the farmgate price of onions peaks at P250 to P300 a kilogram, and retail prices should not exceed P400 per kilogram at any time. Red onions, however, have hit up to P720 per kilogram in some markets.