The agriculture-industry alliance Samahang Industriya ng Agri–kultura (Sinag) have blamed smugglers for the drastic cut in farmgate prices of white onion that is threatening the livelihood of thousands of onion growers and warned that the cheap imports may be unsafe.
In a statement, Sinag claimed that from September to December 2013, close to 400,000 bags or 8.8 million kilos of white onion where smuggled into the country. It said the smuggled onions came from New Zealand and the Netherlands.
“The farmers have started harvesting but the prices have dropped because the storehouses are full of smuggled onions,” Sinag Chairman Rosendo So said, adding that they expect prices to continue sliding down once the harvest season starts in Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan and the Ilocos Region.
The latest Sinag Farmgate Price Watch indicates a sharp 30-percent cut in the price of white onion from P20 a kilo to P14 a kilo.
So, meanwhile, revealed that the smuggled onions did not pass through quarantine and food safety inspection.
“How come they can still look fresh after so much travel and storage time, how much pesticides and chemical inputs were used? This is also a public health concern,” he said.
Since the end of October 2013, Sinag has been regularly releasing its Farmgate Price Watch to update both the consuming public and the government on the actual price changes of basic food commodities.
“What will the farmers do with their surplus harvest of onion? We call on the government to intervene at the farmgate and help the local onion growers. Smuggling has plagued the onion farmers for years. Do they want the industry to die?” So said.
“We want to know who are the ‘David Tans’ involved in onion smuggling, the Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Customs only has to ask around from whom the onions came and how they ended up in the storehouses where they are now,” he added.
Based on calculation of Sinag, the smuggled white onions represent 20 percent of the country’s average total supply of white onion of around 44,000 metric tons or around 44 million kilos.