#SootinClaimon.Com : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.
Onion crisis leaves Filipino farmers crying for change
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2023
Onion prices in the Philippines are now some of the highest in the world after a shortage sent prices skyrocketing, but local farmers say they aren’t benefitting from this and are worried about their future.
At the end of last year, the shortage hiked prices 10-fold from eight months earlier to 700 pesos ($37.28) per kilogram in Manila markets. The exorbitant prices grabbed headlines and pushed food inflation to double-digit levels, prompting President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who is also the agriculture secretary, to eventually clear an emergency importation of up to 21,060 tonnes at the start of 2023 to bring prices down.
But it was an untimely move, made just two weeks before the peak local harvest season began. Local onion farmers were forced to harvest early and sell low in order to prevent making a loss.
Onion farmer 41-year-old Jon-Jon Taverna from Bongabon said they are not against any importation as long as it is done in a timely manner, or when the local harvest is almost sold out.
“We are nervous. We will get nothing from what we have worked hard for,” he said. “No matter how good the crop is, if prices are depressed, you won’t make money,” he said.
Aside from that, there is also the issue of unscrupulous middlemen – traders who would buy local onions at bargain prices from farmers and hoard the commodity for several months, creating an artificial shortage to manipulate prices and sell higher.
The unsavoury turn of events highlights what government critics point to a chronic mismanagement of the Philippine agriculture sector that’s causing distress and frustration among consumers and farmers.
But Roehlano Briones, an economist at the think-tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies says food importation is necessary.
“Imports are brought in as a safety valve because we cannot deny that there will be local supply shocks,” Briones said, citing production losses from diseases that plague hog and poultry businesses and the average of 20 storms that destroy local crops each year.
The government said it is aware of its shortcomings in addressing food security and agricultural productivity challenges, as well as its poor planning for a sector that is grappling with climate change and animal diseases.
Reforms and reorganisation at the Department of Agriculture are forthcoming, said Marcos, as he faces growing calls for him to appoint a full-time agriculture secretary.
In the meantime, some communities are finding their own solutions to mitigate the onion crisis. At a retail store in Manila, customers trade their leftover onions for a variety of items, including snacks, toiletries, and other household items. The onions collected are then distributed to those in need through a community food pantry.
“Since the prices of onions are rising and a lot of people cannot afford to buy onions, with this community pantry they can get as many onions as they need for free. It’s our way of helping and giving back,” said store manager Mitzi Gamboa.
Flower vendors like Nhits Evangelista, however, are hoping to cash in on the onion trend that has been circulating on social media. With added onions and some chilli peppers, his unique Valentine’s Day bouquets can be had for 500 pesos ($9).
“We wanted to have a different type of flower arrangement (for Valentine’s), especially since the prices of onions have gone up and we’d like to join in on the trend,” he said.