Onion farmgate prices still falling, farmers say

Onion farmgate prices still falling, farmers say

FARMERS said on Wednesday that farmgate prices of onions in Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija and Occidental Mindoro have continued to decline, with some importers apparently bypassing a government freeze on imports that was designed to provide relief to the industry.

The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) said in a statement that the onion farmers also have to deal with “widespread worm infestation and reduced irrigation arising from depleted water sources.”

FFF President Leonardo Q. Montemayor said that the entry of imports after December violated Department of Agriculture (DA) rules “intended to protect Filipino producers during the harvesting period from January to April.”

The DA suspended onion imports until May to arrest the decline of farmgate prices.

It said the 99 tons imported in early January were shipped in following delays that took their transit time beyond the December deadline.

The DA recently unveiled plans to construct a network of cold storage facilities. It had allocated P5 billion for the project in the next three years.

The FFF also urged the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. to be more active in providing coverage to onion producers.

“Traders are claiming that recent onion imports are causing them to buy from farmers at low prices,” Rodolfo Camacho, an FFF Pangasinan chapter president, said.

“The outbreak of army worms, coupled with reduced groundwater levels caused by El Niño, are also affecting the size, quality and output of onions,” Mr. Camacho added.

The worst of El Niño may extend until the second quarter, affecting 63 provinces with droughts or dry spells, according to PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration), the government weather service. — Adrian H. Halili