Government allots P327 million to boost onion production

Government allots P327 million to boost onion production

MANILA, Philippines — The government has set aside nearly P327 million to boost onion production in the Philippines this year, Malacañang said yesterday amid continuing high prices of the agricultural commodity.

The Department of Agriculture (DA), through its high value crops development program, allotted P326.97 million for various interventions for the onion industry, Presidential Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil said in a statement.

A total of P69.949 million has been earmarked for onion production support services, including provision of seeds, seedlings and other farm inputs; P3.2 million for irrigation network facilities and P1.9 million for extension support, education and training.

The DA also allocated P6.486 million for farm production-related machinery and equipment distribution; P2.359 million for production facilities and P2.5 million for post-harvest and processing equipment and machinery distribution.

Garafil said seven onion cold storage facilities worth P240.575 million would be established this year in key production areas. The storage facilities can accommodate up to 10,000 bags and are expected to benefit the Pangasinan Onion Growers Association in Umingan, Pangasinan and the Federation of Aritao Farmers Onion, Garlic and Ginger Association in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya.

The New Hermosa Farmers Association in Hermosa, Bataan; the Nagkakaisang Magsasaka Agricultural multi-purpose cooperative in Talavera, Nueva Ecija and the Valiant Primary Multipurpose Cooperative in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija will also receive 20,000-bag capacity cold storage facilities, Garafil said.

The government will also award 20,000-bag capacity cold storage facilities to the Salvacion United Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative and the Samahang Gumagawa Tungong Tagumpay Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Rizal and Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro.

Garafil said 10 farmers’ cooperatives and associations from the Mimaropa region received a P40-million financial grant through the agriculture department’s Enhanced Kadiwa: Sagip Sibuyas Project.

The project, which allows beneficiaries to use up to P5 million to cover the costs of buying onions directly from farmers, hauling and delivery to markets and cold storage facilities and storage rental, served more than 7,800 farmer cooperatives and associations, she added.

Garafil said Region 4B (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan or Mimaropa) is also a beneficiary of the Kadiwa food mobilization program in which the DA buys produce from areas with surplus yield to transport them to places with high demand, including Metro Manila.

The Marcos administration recently approved the importation of 21,060 metric tons of onions to increase the supply of the agricultural commodity and to lower their prices in the market.

President Marcos has vowed to undertake a program that would boost the production of onion farmers. He cited the need to expand the area where onions are planted, provide inputs to farmers and establish cold chain facilities to preserve the agricultural goods.

‘Name hoarders’

Speaker Martin Romualdez has warned officials of the DA – an agency headed by his cousin, President Marcos – that the House of Representatives can resort to using its “power of the purse” if they fail to identify who the price manipulators are in the basic commodities’ market.

“We are also giving budget to the DA and your agency so we want to make sure you are performing optimally,” Romualdez said in a meeting with DA officials early this week.

Apparently taking up the cudgels for the President, Romualdez, hinting at how the DA’s annual budget may suffer extremely should they fail to identify the hoarders, said: “It doesn’t seem to be the case at the moment – but we want to get there.”

The Leyte congressman implied further that the DA’s budget this year, which is 40 percent higher than last year’s, does not seem worth it amid the supply shortages.

“At the end of the day, with the best data, the best feedback, we can make the best policies so we can avoid this situation where some unscrupulous personalities and cartels are taking advantage of the situation,” Romualdez said, encouraging the DA officials to cooperate.

The Speaker said concerned agencies must ensure closer cooperation and get their act together to ensure an effective campaign against hoarders and manipulative traders, noting that the agencies give different data on the situation.

“We will help you, that’s why we’re here. You will not be powerless. We will use the power of the House. We will shine the light on them and then we will take them to account for this,” he told the DA and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) officials present Tuesday.

“If you know who these people are, let us know. We will invite all of them, if not, have the authorities arrest them,” Romualdez said.

Romualdez told officials of the DA and DTI to name traders suspected of manipulating the supply and prices of onion, garlic and other agricultural commodities so the House can invite them to the congressional probe.

‘Moderate your greed’

Visibly exasperated, the Speaker stepped up Tuesday his stern warning to cartels behind the artificial shortage of basic commodities who, he said, should bring back the normal supplies to stop prices from soaring.

“Stop this foolishness, bring back the supply, stabilize it, work with us. And if not, you’re against us – your days are numbered,” Romualdez told attendees of the research pact with Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) on the Marcos administration’s eight-point agenda.

He reiterated the same message in a chance interview with House reporters.

“You know, my message is: moderate your greed, release the supply of these basic commodities – these vegetables, whether they be onion, garlic,” Romualdez said.

“Moderate the supply, moderate your greed, give us fair prices – if not your days are numbered, we’re going after all of you,” he warned further, even as he directed the House committee on agriculture, headed by Quezon City 1st District Rep. Mark Enverga, to get “to the bottom” of the issue.

“We’ll be working closely with the executive, with the Department of Agriculture and the executive, to make sure these hoarders and all these foolish activities of traders are stopped,” the Speaker vowed.

While he assured the executive department of support, the administration stalwart categorically stated nonetheless that cartels and organized syndicates of smugglers are indeed behind the record-high inflation.

“We know that there are sufficient supplies of these basic commodities and there is no reason why the prices should be soaring,” Romualdez said, insinuating that syndicates are the culprits in the unnecessary hike in the prices of goods. — Delon Porcalla

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