Senator Imee Marcos yesterday pushed for a comprehensive inventory of local white onions to determine if there is really a shortage of the produce or whether these are being hoarded to jack up prices.
Marcos made the call as the Department of Agriculture confirmed there was a lack of white onions in the market.
“Trace the traders who bought white onions from local farmers and find out if they are hoarding the crop in cold storage,” she said in a statement.
“Without a comprehensive inventory, we cannot arrive at a well-calibrated importation policy that answers consumer demand but also relieves our local growers from low farmgate prices,” she added.
Agriculture Undersecretary Kristine Evangelista earlier said the DA is considering importing white onion to address the demand.
To understand the situation better, Marcos urged the DA to list the names of traders who bring in produce from Visayas and Mindanao as well as from major onion-growing provinces like Nueva Ecija and Mindoro.
She warned that smaller harvests of white onions in November may not meet the higher demand during Christmas.
The senator called on the government to link more local farmers with the restaurant industry ahead of the next major harvest in April.
“We can shut out smugglers from the supply chain through contract-growing, wherein industrial buyers assure local growers of income from their upcoming harvests and, in turn, are assured supply of a staple ingredient in their food products,” Marcos said.
“Next year’s national budget should provide more cold storage facilities for our local farmers. For now, an inventory and contract-growing must be done as soon as possible,” she added.
Last week, the price of white onions in local markets spiked to as high as P400 a kilo, with few vendors selling the suddenly rare commodity – and those that did refusing to sell piecemeal to regular retail buyers.
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.
Hernan Andres, a member of the Bongabon, Nueva Ecija Farmers’ Association, said 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.
Credit belongs to : www.manilastandard.net