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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Speaker slams agri traders to ‘moderate greed’

Speaker Martin Romualdez on Tuesday urged “profit-hungry traders” manipulating or hoarding the supply and prices of agricultural products, particularly onions to “moderate their greed” or suffer the dire consequences of their actions.

Romualdez and other leaders of the House met earlier with representatives from the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) during which he called for an all-out war against profiteers preying on consumers.

“We’ll be working closely with the Executive, with the Department of Agriculture, to make sure these hoarders and all these foolish activities of traders are stopped,” Romualdez said in an interview.

“My message is: moderate your greed, release the supply of these basic commodities –these vegetables, whether they be onion, garlic. Moderate your greed, and give us fair prices, if not, your days are numbered, we’re going after all of you,” he stressed.

In a separate statement issued shortly after the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between the House of Representatives and Ateneo de Manila University for a Research Partnership Project, Romualdez said he has already directed House Committee on Agriculture chairman and Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga to get to the bottom of the situation.

“We’d like to tell the public that the House of Representatives will use all its resources, and employ all its efforts to ensure that we bring back stable prices and stable supply of these basic commodities,” the Speaker said.

According to Romualdez, there is no reason for the prices of commodities such as onion and garlic to soar sky-high because there is sufficient supply based on the information reaching the House.

“It only points out to one thing, there is hoarding, there is price manipulation. So we are warning those who are behind these nefarious activities—that your days are numbered, the House will be going after you,” Romualdez said.

“So stop this foolishness, bring back the supply, stabilize it, work with us. And if not, you’re against us — your days are numbered,” he added.

During the meeting on Tuesday, Romualdez told officials of the DA and DTI to name traders suspected of manipulating the supply and prices of onion, garlic, and other agricultural commodities so the House can invite them in the forthcoming congressional investigation to be conducted by the Committee on Agriculture.

“If you know who these people are, let us know. We will invite all of them, if not, have the authorities arrest them,” he said.

Romualdez said the House recognizes the right of businessmen under a free trade regime to earn a profit, but it should not come at the expense and misery of the people.

The Speaker assured the DA and DTI officials that they would have the full support of the House in waging an all-out war against hoarders and erring traders of onion and other agricultural products.

“We will help you, that’s why we’re here. You will not be powerless. We will use the power of the House. We will shine the light on them and then we will take them to account for this,” Romualdez emphasized.

The DA earlier set the suggested retail price (SRP) at P125 per kilo for imported red onions, which will take effect today, Feb. 8.

DA Assistant Secretary Kristine Evangelista said the SRP was reached after a multi-sector meeting attended by importers, traders, and retailers.

This developed as President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. approved several initiatives proposed by the DTI to help regulate the soaring prices of onions in the country, including limiting the number of traders involved in the supply chain of imported and locally produced onions.

Among the action plans firmed up during the Monday meeting is for the DA to tap the P276-million Kadiwa Food Mobilization Fund under the 2023 budget to buy the harvest of farmers at prices higher than their production cost, then sell it through Kadiwa at farm gate prices to force hoarders to unload their stocks.

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