In an effort to pull down the price of onions, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is setting a price limit to wholesale onions at P115 per kilogram for red onions and P100 per kilo for white onions, based on their “cold storage price.”
In an interview on radio dzBB, Agriculture Assistant Secretary Kristine Evangelista said stakeholders agreed to impose the “cold storage price” during a recent meeting with local farmers, traders, cold storage operators and the government.
“From where the sellers get their onions, we decided to set a price. This is like a cold storage price since all of the onion harvest of farmers is with traders already. This means that all the onions kept in cold storage are likely owned by traders,” she said.
“With prices set at the cold storage rate, traders can sell onions at a wholesale price of P140 to P150 per kilo,” Evangelista added.
Evangelista said the traders themselves have agreed to post the wholesale price of onions in cold storage facilities.
In a recent price monitoring, the DA reported that local red and white onions sell at P160 to P200 per kilo in select markets in Metro Manila.
The DA announced earlier it may release the suggested retail price (SRP) for onions today, May 22, and enforce the updated pricing by Tuesday May 23.
The DA has given the green light for traders to bring in 22,000 metric tons (MT) of imported onions to manage the demand as the local harvest is not sufficient to cover the domestic requirement.
But food producers expressed concern that the planned 22,000 MT onion importation will not be enough to meet the 70,000 to 80,000 MT demand for the year.
Also on Sunday, Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez called on concerned authorities to pursue the leads uncovered by the House probe into the alleged onion cartel and file appropriate charges.
He issued the statement after Marikina City Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo named interconnected personalities and business entities involved in onion trade that –taken together with their operation, resources and influence — bear the hallmarks of a cartel.
“I call on the concerned authorities like the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine Competition Commission and the Department of Agriculture to work together to stamp out this cartel and spare our people from further suffering caused by their unscrupulous trade practices,” Romualdez said.
“The extensive hearings conducted by the House have already provided good leads which our authorities can follow to build an air tight case and prosecute those involved,” he added.
Unfair trade practices may be prosecuted under the Philippine Competition Act penalizing businesses found to have engaged in anti-competitive agreements with a fine of up to P100 million, and imprisonment of up to seven years.
The fines may be tripled if trade of basic necessities, including agricultural products identified by the Price Act, are involved in cartel or abuse of dominance violations.
Romualdez said Congress remains committed to the task of protecting the public against unfair trade practices such as price fixing.
“The Filipino people deserve to have access to affordable food. We will not rest until we achieve this goal,” he said.
When prices of onion surged to over P700 a kilo in December 2022, he called for a congressional investigation in aid of legislation to address the issue.
He commended Quimbo for her painstaking work that led to the unmasking of onion cartel key players.
Quimbo tagged Lilia or Leah Cruz as the “Sibuyas Queen” who is at the center of her onion cartel, as well as the Philippine VIEVA Group of Companies and its allied firms, which she said had a stranglehold on the entire supply chain.