Suspends P250 SRP as import, harvest supplies soon out in market
Onion prices which recently shot up to more than P600 per kilo are expected to drop to P100 to P150 a kilo with the importation of more than 5,000 metric tons (MT) of the commodity, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said Wednesday.
In a statement, the Palace said the DA has deferred the extension of the P250 suggested retail price (SRP) for red onions due to the forecasted lower price range following the harvest season.
Meanwhile, a DA official came under fire at a congressional hearing when he was unable to explain whether a cartel in the local onion industry was behind the high prices.
At a hearing of the House committee on agriculture and food, Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo admonished Bureau of Plant Industry Director Glenn Panganiban, who balked at saying whether such a cartel existed.
“Director, do you believe that there is a cartel in this industry?” Quimbo asked the director of the bureau, an attached agency of the DA.
“Ma’am, I can’t say if there’s a cartel, but it seems that it seems that aside from production and importation, there’s something else that is exerting some kind of control,” he replied, also in Filipino. “I don’t know if that’s the word you call it, madame.”
Quimbo, senior vice chairperson of the House committee on appropriations, expressed dismay at her difficulty in getting answers from the DA.
“You’re correct when you said control. The supply is being controlled. That’s why I said earlier that there’s a mystery. The prices are so high and yet, you said that you thought the supply was enough,” she said.
The House committee on agriculture and food conducted the hearing to provide answers on why the price of onions has reached as high as P700 a kilo.
On Tuesday, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. convened a sectoral meeting where he said the government is carrying out a program aimed at helping onion farmers increase their yield to stabilize the supply and bring down the commodity’s price.
“We’ll do this by increasing the area that is being planted to onions, number one,” President Marcos said.
“And secondly, we will help by – the DA (Department of Agriculture) will help by providing inputs. So the first part of that is we are going to the seed producers so that they will produce good seed that we can give to the farmers at some point,” the President said.
During the Malacañang meeting, the President pointed to the lack of cold chain facilities that affects onion supply and prices.
“We need more cold storage, we need a better, stronger cold chain so that we can maintain and preserve agricultural products,” Marcos said.
“So that’s the plan. That’s what we will do to address the rising prices of agricultural products,” he added in a mix of Filipino and English.
The DA’s 2022 supply and demand outlook data indicated that the country had a 120 percent sufficiency level with 312,830 MT of onions. Per capita consumption for onion is at 2.341 kg a year according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, with an estimated demand of 21,000 MT per month.
As of Dec. 15 last year, the total stock inventory of locally produced red onions in cold storage nationwide was at 2,209.45 MT. There were no stocks of yellow onions and imported red onions in cold storage.
To provide more affordable onions, state-run Kadiwa stores offered native red and white onions for P170 a kilo, with each customer being allowed to buy a maximum of three kilos.
The DA on Jan. 10, announced the importation of about 22,000 MT of onions to address high prices and supply shortage.
Also on Wednesday, Trade and Industry Secretary Fred Pacual called a meeting of the National Price Coordinating Council (NPCC) that he heads, to discuss measures to mitigate the effects of the rising prices of onions and to improve its supply.
Under Republic Act No. 7581 (RA7581), or the Price Act, as amended, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has jurisdiction over agricultural basic necessities and prime commodities (BNPCs) such as rice, corn, cooking oil, and all agricultural and other marine products, fresh eggs, fresh pork, beef and poultry meat, fresh milk, fresh vegetables, root crops, sugar, fresh fruits, onion, garlic, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, poultry, swine and cattle feeds, among others.
“Given this crucial situation, we are to deliver immediate results to temper the prices of goods and ensure the availability of affordable basic necessities and prime commodities for consumers. We must tap other agencies who can be our allies in this endeavor”, Pascual told members of the council.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), as one of the implementing agencies of the Price Act, has been assisting the DA in monitoring prices of some agricultural products.
Upon the publication of the suggested retail price (SRP) for red onions, Pascual deployed price monitoring teams across the country to check its prices and supply in wet markets and supermarkets.
The DTI said it is committed to assist DA in ensuring the availability of affordable red onions in the market and to stabilize market prices.
The DTI also reminded retailers and business establishments to observe the price freeze protocol in areas still in a state of calamity, particularly in regions affected by incessant and heavy rains.