DA orders temporary suspension of onion imports

By Ma. Teresa Montemayor

January 19, 2024, 4:59 pm

<p>Sacks of onions<em> (PNA photo by Yancy Lim)</em></p>

Sacks of onions (PNA photo by Yancy Lim)

MANILA – Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. has ordered a temporary halt to onion imports until May, possibly extending the suspension through July.

In a news release on Friday, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said the policy pronouncement was issued to prevent further depressing onion prices due to the supply glut.

Should the domestic harvest of the high-value crop remain sufficient to meet local demand, the halt would be extended, it added.

On Thursday, Tiu-Laurel met representatives of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. to discuss the surge in domestic supply of onion due to fresh harvest and the arrival of additional supply imported in December.

Shipment delays resulted in the arrival of 99 tons of onion imported in December between Jan. 1 and 15.

“In principle, I agree with no onion importation until July. But that is on condition that if there is a sudden supply shortfall, we will have to import earlier,” he said.

“Hindi po natin alam ang mangyayari dahil may El Niño (We don’t know what would happen because there is El Niño),” he added.

Onion production could be undermined due to more pests spawned by warmer temperatures and a prolonged dry spell caused by El Niño. Its full impact is expected to be felt around March and April.

The increased supply has pushed down farm gate prices of onion between PHP50 and PHP70 a kilo. It could fall further when more onions are harvested in February.

Prices have dropped to as low as PHP20 a kilo in some areas in Nueva Ecija, which accounts for 97 percent of onion production in Luzon. Luzon produces 65 percent of the local onion supply.

In December 2022, prices of onion surged to a record high of PHP720 a kilo due to tight supply.

The PCAFI told Tiu-Laurel that they expect a supply surplus since an additional 40 percent of land area were planted to onions.

It added that a supply glut is imminent even with the reported infestation of armyworms in some areas in Tarlac and Nueva Ecija as the pest is only expected to damage around 5 percent of standing crops.

Tiu-Laurel and the PCAFI agreed to meet every 45 days to review the supply situation and recalibrate the import schedule and volume. The next meeting will be held in early March.

The Bureau of Plant Industry reported that only 366 hectares out of 10,217 hectares of farmlands planted to onion have been infested by armyworms.

It added that only crops on 6.9 hectares were totally damaged while 359.1 hectares have sustained partial damage out of the infested areas. (PNA)