MANILA — A crime syndicate could be hoarding red onions, the price of which stayed high some 2 weeks ahead of Christmas, a Department of Agriculture official said on Tuesday.
DA spokesperson Rex Estoperez said he received information that some onions were bought way below the cost of production during the harvest season and have not yet been released in public markets.
Authorities are checking cold storage facilities for hoarded supplies, he said.
"Hindi bumababa ang presyo even though ine-encourage na natin yung nagtatago po ng pulang sibuyas na [ilabas]... Doon sa ibang mga market may bahagya lang [na paggalaw sa presyo], pero napakaunti," said Estoperez during a public briefing.
(The prices are not moving even though we are encouraging those hiding red onions to release them. In some markets, there is a slight price movement, but this is too small.)
Asked if a syndicate could be hoarding red onions, he said, "Tama po."
"Alamin natin yung pagpunta natin sa ground ngayon, na kung ano ba estimates natin, even though natamaan tayo ng bagyong Paeng, ano ang estimates nito? Yun ba ang problema natin sa supply or talagang may nagtatago lang?" he added.
(Even though we were hit by cyclone Paeng, what should be its estimates? Is our problem with the supply or is someone hiding them?)
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Estoperez said monitoring teams would also visit Nueva Ecija province to check possible off-season harvests that could increase the red onion supply, which he said is already enough until the end of the year.
"Mayroon tayo, sa ating pagtaya (supply), lagpas naman tayo sa ating supply. 'Yun lamang ang kuwestiyon doon ay 'yung presyo," the official said.
(Based on our estimate, our supply is enough. But the question is the price.)
Agriculture Undersecretary Kristine Evangelista earlier this month said the supply of red onions seemed "sufficient" based on data collated by the Bureau of Plant Industry, but other factors may have contributed to its possible shortage.
Red onions are sold at P300 per kilo in some wet markets as of Tuesday, based on the DA's monitoring.