Ecija onion growers protest importation

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BONGABON, Nueva Ecija: More than 1,000 onion growers from the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan and Tarlac staged a rally here on Friday to protest against an alleged syndicate involving some agriculture officials and onion traders engaged in selling import permits (IPs).

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Israel Reguyal, president of the Local Onion Growers for National Economic and Trade Cooperative, said they already sent a letter to Bureau of Plant and Industry (BPI) chief Vivencio Mamaril to stop the issuance of the IPs but has not received any reply as of Friday.

The onion growers said some unscrupulous businessmen, allegedly in connivance with some BPI officials, defy the Deterte administration’s policy against corruption as onion smugglers continue sneaking into the country foreign products despite the assurance of the Department of Agriculture to help local farmers get a steady return on their production investments usually acquired through loan sharks.

Another co-op official, Josie Balajadia, said IP payment is being collected by the BPI at P20,000 per container van.

She added that about 1,000 container vans arrive weekly at the ports of Davao City, Cagayan de Oro and Manila Port Area.

The local farmers decry that the prices of imported onions in the market are lower than those locally produced.

They said they could not bring down the market price considering the production cost.

The farmers added that the “IP for sale” anomaly will mean death to the local onion industry.

In September prices of local onions range from P80-90 per kilo and this November it costs only P40 a kilo.

The imported onion is priced only between P28 and P30.

In September, Reguyal said, local onions cost P1,800 per bag and this November, P1,000 per bag.

Imported onions cost only P600-P700 per bag.

The daily consumption of onion is 16,000 bags, 480,000 bags a month and 5,480,000 bags a year.

About 13,300 hectares are planted to onions in Nueva Ecija, Tarlac and Pangasinan that produce about 7, 980 bags a day–enough for the yearly consumption of Filipinos.

CELSO M. CAJUCOM

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