The Manila Times
FARMERS’ group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) President Rosendo So has warned that retail prices of onions could reach P400 per kilo as he noted a shortage in the supply of the bulbs. In a radio interview, So on Tuesday said Sinag already recommended last month to the Department of Agriculture (DA) to import at least 7,000 metric tons of white onions and 7,500 metric tons of red onions to address the tightness in the supply of onions. “We prefer affordable onions in the market, there is really a shortage. We already warned the DA that there will be a spike in the prices of onions, that’s why we recommended last month to import white onions in November and this December, there is a need to import white and red onions,” he added. So accused some DA officials of conniving with traders to manipulate the supply of the bulbs. “The people at the BPI (Bureau of Plant Industry) have been there for a long time. Only the heads are replaced. They know the consumption and the volume of production of onions to be able to plan and if there is a need to import to prevent an increase in the prices of onions. It’s the consumers who suffer. The farmers do not benefit. What I can see is connivance between officials of the DA and the traders,” he said. According to So, last year, at least 5,000 MT of onions were imported in October 2021, 16,700 MT in November 2021, and 24,600 MT in December 2021. “These imports were used to supply the markets until January to February ,” he also noted. So said the planting season of onions started in October and will end in December and the harvest will begin in February to April. “We really need to import, especially with the increase in the demand this December. We need at least 7,000 metric tons of white onions and 7,500 metric tons of red onions,” he added. According to So, all the stocks of onions are in the hands of traders. “The harvest is between February and April. Traders usually buy the onions from farmers at P35 to P40 per kilo, and they store the stocks at cold storage facilities. These are the stocks we are now consuming,” he said. So also said the inventory of the red onions at the cold storage facilities was already critical as early as last month. He added that smuggled onions continue to flood the market as a result of the recent confiscation of white onions in different markets. “The DA only confiscated kilos of smuggled onions, but the majority end up in the wet [public] markets. Their system is not effective. There should only be one port of entry to monitor the entry of imported onions,” So said. He was referring to the confiscation of 105 sacks of smuggled white onions at Divisoria Market in Manila, Mutya ng Pasig Public Market in Pasig City and Balintawak Market in Quezon City. So said DA Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban should ask the BPI to explain why it did not approve the recommendation of Sinag to import onions to prevent the shortage of bulbs. On Monday, DA Assistant Secretary and Spokesman Kristine Evangelista said the agency is awaiting the report of the BPI on the volume of red onions still at the cold storage facilities. According to Evangelista, the DA is yet to determine if there is a shortage in the supply of red onions. Based on market monitoring of the DA on Tuesday, the retail prices of red onions ranged from P260 to P300 per kilo. Meanwhile, an official of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) also on Tuesday assured that there will be enough supply of eggs in the country until the end of the year amid the increase in retail prices. During the Laging Handa briefing, Lani Plata Cerna, BAI Livestock Research and Development supervising science research specialist, said the spike in the prices of eggs stemmed from high demand during the holidays. “Based on our egg supply outlook, we will have enough supply of eggs until the end of the year as we have 112 percent sufficiency,” Cerna also said. She was reacting to a statement of Philippine Egg Board Association President Irwin Ambal that retail prices of eggs are affected by the bird flu outbreak not only in the Philippines but also worldwide and that the prices of eggs are expected to further go up with the high demand this Christmas. “At present, the retail prices of eggs are stable with the prevailing price at P7 per piece,” Cerna said. According to her, supply and demand dictate movements in the prices of commodities. “Like other food items, we expect an increase in the demand for egg as it is used for bread, cakes and other pastries. It is a necessity for Christmas and New Year,” Cerna said. She added that the prices will go up if egg producers fail to supply the needed demand. At the same time, Cerna also assured that the DA is implementing various programs to boost the livestock industry, including egg production. “We have enough supply of eggs and chicken. On the part of the Bureau of Animal Industry, we remain vigilant to prevent the spread of bird flu. Our surveillance is ongoing to make sure necessary action will be done in case there is an outbreak of avian influenza,” she said. Earlier, Ambal said areas in Central Luzon, particularly Pampanga, Tarlac and Bulacan, are affected by the high pathogenicity avian influenza (HPAI) virus because of migratory birds. He also said the market is experiencing the effects of avian flu that started in the first and second quarters of the year. According to Ambal, a tray of eggs ranged between P205 and P210 from P185 per tray. He said many countries from where the Philippines imports breeders are also affected by the outbreak of HPAI. An official said regions infected with ASF decreased to six even as it reported a slight shortage in pork products during the last quarter of the year. According to Dr. Samuel Joseph Castro, BAI National African Swine Fever Prevention deputy national program coordinator, still affected by ASF were Regions 1 (Ilocos), 3 (Central Luzon), 4A (Calabarzon), 6 (Western Visayas), 8 (Eastern Visayas) and 12 (Soccsksargen). Cerna said the country is 95 percent sufficient in the pork supply compared to the 121 percent sufficiency level in the third quarter. “As of October 20, 2022, for our hog supply outlook, we will have a slight shortage in the supply of hogs for this quarter. We have a 95 percent sufficiency level compared to the third quarter where we have 121 percent sufficiently level,” she added. Cerna said the DA allows the importation of frozen meat products to meet the high pork demands during the holidays. “We import frozen meat products from the United States, Denmark,” she added. Castro said the DA implements the National ASF Prevention and Control Program to prevent the spread of the virus. “We have the Bantay ASF sa Barangay. The heart of the program itself is local government unit engagement, cascading the national program until the barangay (village) level,” he added. Castro said the BAI conducts disease surveillance and biosecurity as part of the effort to address the outbreak of ASF. “Disease surveillance is being done in various areas where our hog farmers are located. We check if there are outbreaks of ASF and make sure that the virus will not spread to other areas,” he added. Castro said an information campaign is ongoing to educate the public on ASF. “One important component of the program is the recovery and repopulation. We embark on repopulation once we have already cleared areas of ASF. We need to make sure that the level of biosecurity is high to prevent the outbreak of ASF,” he added. “The government needs the cooperation of all the stakeholders from the national to grassroot levels to finally put an end to the ASF,” Castro said.