Onion production gains push DA to weigh longer import ban

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it is considering prolonging the freeze on onion imports to shield domestic producers from price declines just as they are achieving production gains.

Pag pumasok ’yung imported na mas mura (When cheap imports come in), it will drive down the price even lower. We need to also consider the onion farmers,” Assistant Secretary and Spokesperson Arnel V. de Mesa told reporters on Tuesday.

The freeze on imports is currently in effect until the end of July.

According to DA price monitors deployed to Metro Manila markets, as of July 1 a kilogram of red onions cost between P80 and P150 per kilo.

Mr. De Mesa said that the current volume of onions is sufficient to meet demand for about eight months, or until February.

“But of course, we need to take into consideration the shrinkage give or take about 10% to 20% of the total volume so most the stocks would most likely last between seven to eight months,” he added.

According to DA data, the national inventory of red onions was at 161,973.73 metric tons (MT), with yellow onions at 11,569.07 MT.

During the first quarter, onion production was 201.25 thousand MT, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, up 36.8% from a year earlier.

The DA attributed the production gains to a 40% increase in the land planted to onion.

He said that the department could also opt to import only yellow onions due to the lower inventories of “about 2.5 to three months.”

Separately, Mr. De Mesa said that an increase of tomato prices may have been caused by a delay in the harvest.

“We expect that in two weeks, as per industry players, the bulk of the tomato harvest will arrive,” he added.

He said tomato prices ranged between P120 and P180 per kilo, against the P80 per kilo the department reported in June. — Adrian H. Halili