The Department of Agriculture (DA) maintained Tuesday it will not import onion as harvest season nears, despite its prices soaring up to PHP520.

At a Laging Handa public briefing, DA deputy spokesperson Rex Estoperez said the department is cautious in granting import permits, especially for onions.

“Off-season, ayaw nating i-tolerate ang smuggling. Kapag nag-issue tayo ng import permit, sa paligid lang iyan. Ilalabas nila iyong smuggled goods (We don’t want to tolerate smuggling. If we issue an import permit, they are just around. They will bring out their smuggled goods),” he said.

Estoperez assured consumers that the prices will stabilize from January onwards as the supply of locally produced onions will increase during the harvest season.

But he said the DA needs to tweak the value chain to ensure an increase in production and availability of affordable prices for consumers.

“Kailangan i-improve natin, kasi pag hindi ma-improve ito, including the resilience natin sa climate change, hindi natin ma-address ito, patuloy po na mangyayari ito (We need to improve this, because if do not improve, including our resilience to climate change, we can not address this, this will continue to happen),” he added.

He said these include intervention for the logistics, transportation, cold storage and packaging intervention as well as an active fight against the smuggling of agricultural commodities.

Shooting prices
Estoperez, meanwhile, clarified that the PHP170 price cap for onions is just a guide, as several markets now offer more than thrice the cap.

“Guide lang po ’yan. Ang presyo naman ang nagdidikta niyan is supply and demand. Kung mahina ang supply mo na nanggagaling sa produksyon, ang presyo mo ay tataas (That’s only a guide, the price is determined by supply and demand, if your supply is low coming from production, your price will increase),” he said.

The DA added that besides monitoring prices in markets, they have also visited the production areas of onions in Nueva Ecija and Tarlac.

“Mayroon tayong supply. Hindi sobra-sobra, pero dun sa farmgate price nila, nung tiningnan namin is PHP300 already. Eh kung ahente ang bibili dun at dalhin sa Metro Manila, talagang may patong pa ‘yan (We have supply, but not more than enough, in their farm gate price, we saw it’s already PHP300, if an agent will buy it and bring it to Metro Manila, there’s definitely a markup),” he said.

Estoperez said several markets are selling small onions for PHP480 per kilogram and medium-sized onions for PHP520 per kilo.

Meanwhile, the DA’s Kadiwa sites and the Kadiwa ng Pasko still offer onions at a much lower price of PHP170 per kilo.

On Tuesday, Kadiwa sites reopened following its short halt for the holiday celebration. (PNA)

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