THE SENATE minority leader slammed government “decision makers” for pursuing policies in the agriculture industry that choke onion farmers, who can readily meet the country’s demand given ample support.
“Our onion farmers have never been tested because they have never been fully supported in maximizing their output potential,” Senate Minority Floor Leader Aquilino Martin “Koko” D. Pimentel III said in a statement on Tuesday.
“We have to trust them and place our bets on them,” he added.
Ramon Silverio, chair of the provincial cooperative development council of Occidental Mindoro, said during an agriculture hearing on Monday that their province alone can supply the nationwide demand if they receive proper support from the government.
Region 4-B or Mimaropa, where Occidental Mindoro belongs, was the second biggest onion producing region in the country, based on a 2021 onion sector investment guide published by the Department of Agriculture (DA). The top producer was Ilocos.
However, in the current situation, Mr. Pimentel said “the decisions that our decision makers have been making are all to the detriment of the Filipino onion farmer.”
“Local onion farmers are complaining that in each step of their trading process, imported or traders’ onions are prioritized, including in the allocation of cold storage space,” he said.
“Who can make such anti-Filipino decisions, all the time? Only a foreigner can do that to the Philippine farmer,” he added. “Unfortunately, those decisions were made by fellow Filipinos but prioritizing the interests of traders, importers and ultimately foreign farmers and their business representatives.”
The DA recently authorized imports of 21,060 metric tons (MT) of onions — including 17,100 MT of the red variety and 3,960 MT of the yellow — to stabilize onion prices.
The retail price of onions, observed in markets at up to P750 per kilo, has far exceeded the suggested retail price of P250.
The opposition senator said that he did not trust the supply and demand data presented by the DA, consolidated just a day before the recent Senate hearing.
Original figures posted by the DA did not align with those from the Bureau of Plant Industry.
“As usual, we have figures on agriculture products, but I personally do not or cannot automatically believe them,” he said. “Hence, we have difficulty determining root causes because our research or data keeping is so unreliable.”
Senators on Monday found that the high price of onions is disproportionate to the small shortfall in domestic production, noting that this could have easily been addressed by well-timed imports. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan