THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it will extend the suspension of onion imports until July, following an increase in domestic production.

I-e-extend natin ’yung ban sa onion imports, puno ang mga cold storage sa onion producing areas, (We will extend the ban on onion imports, cold storage facilities in onion producing areas are full),” Agriculture Secretary Francisco P. Tiu Laurel, Jr. told reporters on Monday.

He added that the DA sees no need for more imports as onion prices have remained stable.

According to DA price monitors, the average retail price of domestically grown red onions was between P70 to P160 per kilogram, while white onions sold for between P60 and P130 per kilo as of May 17.

The national average retail price of red onions in early May was P123.75 per kilo, against the P125.76 per kilo in  late April.

“If there is a spike in price, and that means there is probably a lack of supply or there is an unscrupulous trader, then we will activate our imports whenever, but only when necessary,” Mr. Laurel said.

In January, the agency ordered a temporary halt to onion imports to halt the decline in farmgate prices.

The DA has said that shipment delays resulted in the arrival of 99 metric tons (MT) of onions ordered in December between Jan. 1 and 15.

He had said that once the supply of onions softens, the DA will approve imports, particularly if El Niño affects onion production.

During the first quarter, onion production was 201.25 thousand MT, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. This was 36.8% higher from a year earlier.

The DA attributed the production growth to a 40% increase in the land planted to onions. — Adrian H. Halili