THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it will stop selling low-cost onions at its Kadiwa stores starting today, Friday, following the expiry of its deal with suppliers.

The DA said the supply deal ended on Dec. 31.

“We are working on a supplemental (memorandum of agreement). We also took into consideration the current low prices of onions,” Kristine Y. Evangelista, DA spokesperson, told reporters on Thursday.

Ms. Evangelista said that starting Jan. 13, Kadiwa onion sales will be suspended pending the signing of a new supply deal for low-cost onions.

Onions currently sell for P170 per kilogram at government-run Kadiwa stores, well below their commercial price of P340-P550, according to the DA’s price watch data from Jan. 12.  

Ms. Evangelista added that the DA is working with Food Terminal, Inc. (FTI), a government-owned corporation tasked with stabilizing food prices, on the supply of onions.

“We are now in talks with FTI to start the cycle, because they are the ones that procure the supply. This second cycle is something that we have to study; we have to consider the price because the cost structure will definitely be different this time,” she added.

Ms. Evangelista also added that the FTI “has a free hand to buy onions.” She noted that the ongoing harvest ensures the availability of domestic supply.

She said that the decision to halt Kadiwa onion sales is not connected with the investigation being conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman into the FTI’s onion purchases.

“Basically, you have to go through (procurement) procedures for this matter and… we also have to understand (FTI’s) procedures as well,” Ms. Evangelista said.

The DA and FTI are under investigation for price manipulation after an FTI had to pay high prices for an onion order, potentially setting a price benchmark for the rest of the market. — Ashley Erika O. Jose