January 29, 2023

Juan Kabayan

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‘Onion farmers crying’ | The Juan Kabayan

(UPDATE) FORMER Agriculture secretary and Federation of Free Farmers Board Chairman Leonardo Montemayor on Tuesday said onion farmers were greatly saddened by the decision of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to allow the importation of onions.

“Onion farmers are literally crying. After suffering losses these past years due to pests, weather disturbances, they will have to face a ‘man-made calamity’ at harvest time!” Montemayor said in an interview with The Juan Kabayan.

He issued the statement after the Department of Agriculture (DA) announced that President Marcos approved the importation of 21,060 metric tons (MT) of onions.

Agriculture deputy spokesman Rex Estoperez said that Marcos gave the go signal to outsource 21,060 MT of onions, 940 MT less than the 22,000 MT recommended by the department.

A farmers’ group on Tuesday said “[a]nother round of onion imports will not guarantee reduced retail prices if the DA will remain useless in addressing the gap between farmgate and retail prices [of the bulbs].”

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Jayson Cainglet, executive secretary of the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura, said the importation will lead to depressed farmgate prices of the bulbs.

Danilo Fausto, president of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc., said that the onion importation is too late.

“That’s too late. Harvest is coming,” Fausto said in a text message to The Juan Kabayan.

He said the DA should ensure that the importers will strictly comply with the Jan. 27, 2023 deadline for the arrival of the bulbs.

“The deadline to import up to January 27 only is a good move,” Fausto added.

Estoperez said that James Layug, agriculture assistant secretary for inspectorate and enforcement, was tasked to determine if there are traders who are manipulating the supply and prices of the bulbs.

“Senator [Cynthia] Villar said there is a cartel that is manipulating the prices and supply of onions. We discussed this with Assistant Secretary Layug to determine if those behind the bidding of farmgate prices of onions and those involved in the smuggling of onions [belong to] the same group,” he said during the Laging Handa briefing.

Based on a memorandum issued by Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban, no request for an extension of the arrival date should be allowed for the importation of red and white onions.

“Ports of entry shall only be Port of Manila-South Harbor, Port of Subic, Port of Cebu, Port of Davao, and Port of Cagayan de Oro,” Panganiban said.