MANILA (2nd UPDATE)— The Department of Agriculture has approved the importation of 21,060 metric tons of onions as the price of the commodity continues to soar, an official said Tuesday.
DA Deputy Spokesperson Rex Estoperez said authorities considered the volume and the timing of the importation based on the expected harvest of onion growers.
A copy of an order from the agency, dated Jan. 6, showed that both fresh yellow and red onions will be imported. Ports of entry will be limited to the Manila-South Harbor, Cebu, Davao, and Cagayan De Oro.
Onion harvests could peak between mid-February and May, Estoperez said. The imports should arrive by Jan. 27 or until the first week of February, and is lower than the 22,000 initially recommended.
"Yung letter... addressed to retail licensed onion importers na pinirmahan ni Senior [Undersecretary] Panganiban at 'yong mga pagbabago sa rekomendasyon natin, from 22,000 metric tons, naging 21,060 metric tons," Estoperez said during a televised briefing.
Video from PTV
"'Yung ating import volume ay base sa pangangailangan ng ating merkado. In the meantime na wala pa ang peak harvest ng ating magsasaka," he added.
"Yun ang mga pagbabago, yun ang nakikita natin na dapat dumating ang sibuyas na in-import bago mag-peak harvest ang ating onion growers."
(The import volume is based on market needs. In the meantime, the harvest of our farmers has yet to peak. That is the difference, the imported onions should arrive before the peak harvest of our onion growers.)
MARCOS 'INFORMED' ABOUT IMPORTS
Estoperez said President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. was informed before the import order was signed by Panganiban.
High farmgate prices also prompted the importation, he added.
“Kami, ako mismo, personally we don’t like to import sana, dahil we have to break yung cycle na mag-import tayo tapos masisira yung ating anihan sa sibuyas," said Estoperez.
"[On] the ground, tiningnan namin mukhang hindi bumababa ang presyo ng farmgate, eh kung kahit babaan mo ang farmgate to the level of P250 na sinet natin from December 28 to January 7, wala rin sa lebel na yon,” Estoperez said.
(Personally, we wouldn't have wanted to import because we wanted to break the cycle that destroys our onion harvest. But on the ground, the farm gate prices do not seem to go down. We set a level of P250 from December 28 to January 7, but we haven't reached that level.)
The DA said that 50 percent of the onion imports will go to Luzon and while Visayas and Mindanao will get 25 percent each.
Estoperez said onion prices might reach P100 per kilogram.
“Tinitingnan namin, siguro doon sa September level, 100 to 150 pero hindi pa yan final, we have to check,” Estoperez said.
(We are looking at perhaps the September level, P100 to P150, but that is not yet final.)
The DA also assured the public that it would address the statements made by Sen. Cynthia Villar regarding alleged cartels involved in price manipulations, as well as smugglers.
“Tingnan natin kung sino ang naka-consign dito sa mga smuggled na ito at saka sino rin ang namimili doon highest bidder sa mga taniman ng sibuyas, baka isang tao lang din iyan,” he said.
(We are looking at whom the smuggled items were consigned to and who picks the highest bidders for onions. They might be the same person.)
INSPECTION FOR SMUGGLED ONIONS
In a statement, the Presidential Communications Office said President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. has ordered the phytosanitary inspection of smuggled onions to make sure they are fit for human consumption.
Inspection for the smuggled items costs P5,000 per kilogram, "which is much higher than the value of the onion," noted the communications office.
The President is seeking "third-party inspectors" for this.
“The problem with the onions we’ve been trying... since kasi ang dami nating nahahanap na smuggled onions, pinipilit kong ilabas diyan sa market [and] unfortunately, we do not know the source of these onions. So they all have to be inspected. Hindi puwedeng random,” Marcos said.
“So ‘yun lang ang quandary natin. We are trying to negotiate with third parties to do the inspection. But right now we are still reviewing all of that,” he said.
(Because we are finding so many smuggled onions, I am trying to have them release in the market. Unfortunately, we do not know the source of these onions. So they all have to be inspected. It can't be random. That is our quandary.)
At least 500 container vans of confiscated onions remain in ports pending the inspection, Malacañang said, quoting Customs Commissioner Yogi Filemon Ruiz.
“They really have to be very safe kasi just one batch na makalusot, maraming magkakasakit talaga. So that’s the situation there," noted Marcos.
The price of local onions hover between P400 and P600 a kilo in some wet markets, based on the agriculture department's monitoring as of Jan. 9.
— With a report by Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News