Nueva Ecija Gov. Czarina Cherry Umali on Sunday called on the national government to always ensure that onion farmers are protected and should not be at the mercy of traders and of erratic movement of supply and demand in the market. Umali was reacting to reports that a shortage of onions has been observed leading to influx of imported onions in the market. Nueva Ecija is the top onion-producing province in the Philippines. A total of 19 municipalities and cities plant onion whole year round on about 1,577 hectares of land. “The interest of farmers should always come first. They must be protected. Their crops should be protected. Their produce must get a fair share of the market. Politicians with bad intent should stop manipulating the farmers and prop up superfluous issues to confuse the public. That is not good politics,” Umali told The Manila Times in a chance interview in Quezon City. She said that even Serafin Santos, the chief of the Office of Provincial Agriculture, reported that there was no crisis in the supply of onions but some unscrupulous traders are hoarding their stocks to earn more. Santos reported that last August, farmers already harvested their fully grown onions and are planting for their next crop harvest. He said as early as September 2016, they received an advice from the Bureau of Plant Industry of the Department of Agriculture to conduct an inventory of current onion stock over a lingering fear that supply may fall short because of the damage done by army worms during the last cropping.