THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is eyeing Vietnamese technology to help local onion growers achieve self-sufficiency and end Philippine dependence on importing the commodity.
The technology in onion farming developed by Vietnamese farmers in the Mekong Delta will allow the Filipino onion farmer to harvest three times a year, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said.
“Onion farmers in the Philippines harvest only once a year, because they use seeds in planting and it would take about six months before the crops are ready for harvesting,” Piñol said.
The DA chief said most onion farms in Luzon are rain-fed rice farms, and the ricefields are planted to onion during the dry season when water is not available.
Lee Duc Suy, a young Vietnamese entrepreneur whose family owns VietGrow, one of the biggest vegetable seeds producer and fertilizer manufacturer in Vietnam, said the new technology uses onion tubers as planting material, instead of seeds.
Onion tubers, as big as an average thumb and initially grown in a nursery, could be harvested after two months. This allows the farmer to make a harvest three to four times a year.
“This new onion farming technology gives the farmer a yield of between 12 to 15 metric tons per hectare which at a farm gate price of P60 per kilo would earn the farmer between P720,000 to P900,000 per harvest,” Lee said.
The cost per hectare is estimated at P250,000, including fertilization and farm development, which means a farmer stands to make a net profit of P470,000 to P650,000 per hectare per harvest.
“I have allowed VietGrow and its local Filipino partner to set up demonstration farms in North Cotabato, Southern Leyte, Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Ilocos Norte and Mindoro,” Piñol said.
“Should the demo farms produce positive results, this would mean the end of the days when Filipino onion farmers are at the mercy of imported and smuggled onions,” he added.
Onion is one of the top five vegetables in the country and a major source of livelihood and among Filipino farmers, especially in Luzon.
There are two major types of onion grown in the Philippines, the “Red Creole” and “Yellow Granex.”
Given the challenge posed by imported onion, local varieties are having a tough time competing with imported varieties.
Product quality is an important aspect global competitiveness, which makes technology intervention on quality improvement a vital need that must be answered, Piñol said.