MANILA — The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Wednesday warned consumers against patronizing white onions which were smuggled into the country.
White onions available in the market at this time were not locally produced and instead were illegally shipped to the country, said DA spokesperson Rex Estoperez.
"Walang puting sibuyas. Pag puting sibuyas na malalaki, pag tuyo na 'yung stem, sigurado smuggled," Estoperez said.
(There's no white onion. When white onions are big and the stem is dry, it is definitely smuggled.)
Smuggled agricultural products did not comply with sanitary measures, the official said.
"Ang paalala naitin sa mga kababayan lalo sa mga tumatangkilik ng puting sibuyas, alam natin smuggled ‘yan. Pwede kang lumusot at 99 percent siguro safe ka. ‘Yong 1 percent kung tamaan ka mas mahal pa ang ospital kaysa sa minura mo sa binili mo sa sibuyas… Huwag na natin ipagsapalaran ang ating kalusugan," Estoperez said.
(Our reminder, especially to those who buy white onions, is that we know that these were smuggled. You could have a 99-percent chance of being safe. For the remaining 1 percent, if you get health problems, the hospital bill is more expensive than what you have saved with the onion you bought... Let's not risk our health.)
Some 100,000 kilos of smuggled onions recently intercepted at the port of Manila contained chemical residue and traces of E. coli, the DA said.
At the Mega Q Mart in Quezon City, onion prices hovered at P340 per kilo which vendors attributed to the high demand this holiday season.
Jam Laurel, a fishball vendor, bought 8 pieces of onions for P50.
Since he is working on a tight budget, Laurel has to prioritize the ingredients needed for his business.
"Dalawang bawang lang. Sa sibuyas hindi pwedeng bawasan kasi sa suka kailangan ‘yan. ‘Yan ang pampalasa ng sauce," Laurel said.
(I use just 2 cloves of garlic. You can't reduce the onion because it's needed for the vinegar. That's the seasoning for the sauce.)
Vendors like Norma Santos are also limiting their orders despite the increase in demand.
Santos said some onions are poor in quality and might be hard to sell due to their high price.
“May malalambot na. Parang maikli na ang buhay niya, pinakamatagal ang 1 week. Kailangan talaga maubos… Kami konti lang din kasi pag humakot kami ng marami hindi namin mabebenta, masisiraan kami,” Santos said.
(Some are already soft. It seems that its shelf life is short, the longest is 1 week. It really needs to be used up... We only have a little because if we order a lot we won't be able to sell it, it will just go bad.)
Even online orders from previous restaurant clients have dwindled as they try to lower their expenses.
“Mas kumaunti po kumpara sa mga nakaraan na medyo mababa ang presyo kasi nagtitipid din eh. Nagba-budget din sila sa order. Sa patatas, minsan 50 kilos. Ngayon halos 15, 20 kilos na lang nao-order nila,” said vendor Mark Mateo
(It's less compared to the past when the price is relatively low because they're also trying to save money. They also have a budget for the order. In potatoes, sometimes they used to order 50 kilos. These days, they only order about 15, 20 kilos.)