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DA orders temporary suspension of onion imports

Author: DA-AFID | 19 January 2024

Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr. has ordered a temporary halt to onion imports until May–possibly extending the suspension through July– if domestic harvest of the high value crop remains sufficient to meet local demand.

The agri chief issued the policy pronouncement to prevent further depressing onion prices due to supply glut.

Secretary Tiu Laurel on Thursday 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 arrival of additional supply imported in December.

Shipment delays resulted in the arrival of 99 tons of onion imported in December between January 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 Nino (We don’t know what would happen because of El Nino),” the agriculture chief added.

Warmer temperatures and a prolonged dry spell caused by El Nino could spawn more pests that could undermine onion production. The full impact of El Nino is expected to be felt around March and April.

The increased supply has pushed down farm gate prices of onion between P50 and P70 a kilo, and could fall further when more onions are harvested in February. In some areas in Nueva Ecija, which accounts for 97 percent of onion production in Luzon, prices have dropped to as low as P20 a kilo. Luzon produces 65 percent of local onion supply.

In December 2022, prices of onion surged to a record high P720 a kilo due to tight supply.

PCAFI reported to Secretary Tiu Laurel that they expect a supply surplus since an additional 40 percent of land area were planted to onions. It added that even with the reported infestation of armyworms in some areas in Tarlac and Nueva Ecija, a supply glut is imminent as the pest is only expected to damage around 5 percent of standing crops.

Secretary Tiu Laurel and PCAFI agreed to meet every 45 days to review the supply situation and recalibrate 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 farm lands planted to onion have been infested by armyworms—the caterpillar-like larvae stage of what would eventually become moths. Out of the infested areas, only crops on 6.9 hectares were totally damaged while 359.1 hectares have sustained partial damage, the BPI report said.

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