THE government’s onion import plan is not likely to attract importers because of the “tight window” to apply for an import permit, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in a report.

“The extreme conditions attached to the unscheduled quota all but guarantee that it will not be filled and likely will not come close to filling,” USDA said.

“Regardless of the limited volume and tight window of opportunity to apply for import permits, several other conditions also apply and reduce the likelihood that the quota will be realized or achieve its intended result of providing price relief to consumers,” it said.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) recently authorized imports of 21,060 metric tons (MT) of onions — including 17,100 MT of the red variety and 3,960 MT of the yellow — to stabilize onion prices.

In a letter to the Bureau of Plant Industry dated Jan. 6, the DA said applications for sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances were open to importers between Jan. 9 and Jan. 13.

Importers were only given until Jan. 27 to bring in their shipments in order not to disrupt the domestic onion harvest.

The retail price of onions, observed in markets at up to P600 per kilo, has far exceeded the suggested retail price of P250.

“Meanwhile, the Philippines has no scheduled or notified exception for a quota or quantitative restriction on onions in the WTO (World Trade Organization),” the USDA said.

The restriction on the shipments, including the ports to be used to land the cargoes as well as the timeline, will limit the number of licensed importers able to import fresh onion, the USDA said, adding that cold storage capacity may not be up to the task of storing the imports.

“This combination of factors will further impede the ability of imported onions to access and flow through the local supply chain,” the USDA said. — Ashley Erika O. Jose