Senate probe of high onion prices pushed
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Imee Marcos is calling for a Senate investigation of the soaring prices of local onions amid the recent flooding of its imported varieties and the reported rampant smuggling of the produce from other countries.
In her Senate Resolution No. 350, Marcos, chair of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, disclosed that retail prices of onions have soared to as high as P400 per kilogram, while the price of domestically produced red onion in wet markets has also risen to as much as P200 to P220 per kg.
“[T]here is a need to determine the cause, as well as, ensure that the proposed importation of onions will not kill the local onion production or industry,” she said.
Could reach P400
Marcos filed the resolution following news reports that Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) president Rosendo So has warned that retail prices of onions could reach P400 per kg supposedly due to a supply shortage.
Media reports also quoted So as saying that Department of Agriculture (DA) officials are allegedly conniving with traders to manipulate the domestic supply of onions.
According to Marcos, the prevailing price of red onion is way above the suggested price of P170 a kilo, which the DA set through Administrative Circular No. 09.
“Prices of red onions in public markets remained high despite the government’s recent imposition of a price cap. Based on DA’s monitoring as of Nov. 29, majority of public markets in Metro Manila are still selling local red onions for P280 to P300 per kilogram,” she said.
The DA has purportedly attributed the price spike for white onions to a supply shortfall since many onion farmers have allegedly shifted to planting the red variety of onions, the senator said.
In calling for a Senate investigation, Marcos cited Republic Act No. 7581, or the Price Act, which mandates the government to “ensure the availability of basic necessities and prime commodities at reasonable prices at all times without denying legitimate business a fair return on investment.”
She explained that onion is one of the prime commodities regularly monitored by the DA to protect consumers against price irregularities in the local market.
The senator also cited reports from vendors who said that the higher prices of onions were driven by the lack of supply of imported onions from other countries like China and India.
“The DA has warned the public against buying onions from online platforms stating that these may be smuggled products and may not have been reviewed and could probably be unfit for human consumption,” she said.
Marcos also cited a Dec. 2 report that the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), the Bureau of Customs (BOC), the DA, the Philippine National Police, and the Coast Guard seized around 1,037 bags of yellow onions in an operation in Tondo district in Manila.
“[Authorities] estimated the confiscated goods to be worth about P1.9 million. However, the BPI states that the market value of said onions is about P3.9 million,” Marcos said.
The BOC also announced on Wednesday that it has seized a shipment of smuggled onions at Mindanao Container Terminal Port in Misamis Oriental, said to be worth P20 million.
READ: Onion supply soon to stabilize but ‘surplus’ problem looms
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