AGRICULTURE Assistant Secretary and spokesman Kristine Evangelista on Wednesday said traders were involved in price manipulation, causing the spike in the farmgate price of onions between P550 and P670 per kilo in December.
“Somebody manipulated the farmgate price of onions,” Evangelista said.
Evangelita said the DA is now conducting an investigation to unmask the personalities who dictated the farmgate price of the bulbs causing the retail price to spike at as high as P720 per kilo.
“Maybe they (unscrupulous traders) felt that the DA cannot do anything; that’s why they manipulated the prices,” Evangelista added.
“There is manipulation somewhere. That, of course, is something we are now investigating, and there has to be case buildup and I hope it will be pursued. It should not become a perennial problem,” Evangelista said.
At the same time, Evangelista defended the action of the DA to procure the onions at P537 per kilo and sell the bulbs at P170 per kilo at the Kadiwa centers.
“At one point, we have to stabilize the prices. We have the capability to buy. This is part of the intervention, otherwise, the spike in the prices will not be controlled and consumers will suffer,” Evangelista said.
Evangelista said President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who is the Secretary of the DA, knew about the intervention of the department, through the Kadiwa centers.
“The President as secretary is aware of the food mobilization at the Kadiwa,” Evangelista said.
However, Evangelista admitted that Marcos was not informed that the DA subsidizes the onions sold at the Kadiwa by more than P300 per kilo.
“We knew the intervention but as to the exact amount, it was the FTI who negotiated with the farmer-cooperative,” Evangelista said, referring to the deal with Bonena Multipurpose Cooperative.
Evangelista also denied that the DA favored the farmers’ group.
“Bonena has complete documentation. That’s why we referred the group to the FTI. Aside from Bonena, we also linked another farmer-cooperative in Mindoro. Whatever the transaction between the FTI and the farmer supplier, that’s between the two of them,” she said.
Evangelista said the DA partnered with the FTI, as it has the cold storage facilities to store the onions.
“The FTI, which is a GOCC (government-owned and -controlled corporation), has cold storage facilities. During the time of the late former president [Ferdinand] Marcos Sr., the Kadiwa was one of their programs as one of their mandates was food security. We partnered with them knowing they have the infrastructure,” she noted.
Evangelista said she already asked FTI to submit a detailed report on the procurement of onions sold at the Kadiwa stores.
“We already asked the FTI to submit a report so that we will determine how they used the funding and the volume of onions that was procured,” Evangelista added.
On the other hand, Evangelista said the retail prices of the bulbs have started to go down in the Metro Manila markets.
“At present, we already monitored P280 per kilo at Mega Q-Mart [in Quezon City]. We were able to influence the retail prices,” she noted.
Based on the price monitoring of the DA on Wednesday, the retail prices of onions at Mega Q-Mart ranged from P280 to P350 per kilo.
The retail price of the bulbs remained high at P680 per kilo at Marikina Public Market in Marikina City.
The prevailing prices of red onions in other wet markets ranged from P450 to P650 per kilo.
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