THE Department of Agriculture (DA) ordered the suspension of imports of bulb onions until the investigation on cartel operations that allegedly manipulate the prices of locally-produced onions concludes.
In a social media post on Friday, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said the new directive is expected to “prevent the cartel from benefitting from their operations where they forced the drop in the buying price of local onions by leasing and closing cold storage facilities to onion farmers.”
The order came after the DA asked the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) last Wednesday to look into the closure of four major cold storage facilities used by farmers to store their produce. Mr. Pinol said this is an “apparent attempt” to push farmers to cut the prices of their goods.
“With the farmers’ produce bought at very low prices cornered and consolidated, traders could control the pricing of onion in the market and generate huge profits,” he wrote.
“The moratorium on the issuance of SPS (sanitary and pytho-sanitary) permits will be extended until such time the PCC and NBI have terminated their investigation,” the agriculture chief added.
SPS permits are issued by the Bureau of Plant Industry, which Mr. Piñol ordered to schedule only at the end of the harvest season for local farmers.
He also noted that farmer groups and importers have agreed to allow the resumption of onion importation only after the harvest season.
“The traders are expected to consolidate the local production as they await for the time when they will be allowed to import,” Mr. Piñol said. — Denise A. Valdez