(UPDATE) A GROUP on Thursday called on the Department of Agriculture (DA) to investigate reports that white onions, which are scarce in wet markets, are being sold online.

In an interview with The Manila Times, Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (Pcafi) President Danilo Fausto said the white onions offered on the internet are either imported or smuggled.

"Just like what they did with sugar, they should investigate the white onions that can be purchased online and make available red onions," Fausto said.

He said it is unlikely that the onions being advertised online are locally sourced.

"We harvested white onions in April this year and even if you have a cold storage facility, the bulbs can only last for three months and it's now September," Fausto said.

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The DA should determine if the smuggling of white onions continues, as evidenced by the confiscation of nine trucks of the produce in Mindanao.

The bulbs are priced online from P524 to P726 per kilo.

Based on the market monitoring of the DA on Thursday, white onions are still unavailable in wet markets in Metro Manila.

Fausto said that local onion growers will start planting the bulbs in October and harvest in March next year.

"Onions do not survive in wetland, that is why farmers start planting in October and the latter part of November," he said.

Among the areas where farmers plant white onions are Nueva Ecija and Cagayan Valley.

Fausto also asked the DA to ensure the availability of red onions in the market.

"The red onions can be bought in Nueva Ecija at P120 per kilo. It should be about P140 a kilo in the local markets in Metro Manila," he said.

Based on the daily price watch of the agency, the retail price of white onions ranges from P120 to P170 a kilo in Metro Manila.

Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban maintained that there is no decision yet to import white onions since the inventory is still ongoing.

"We cannot say if there is a need to import white onions since the DA and the Bureau of Plant Industry are conducting the inventory to determine if we still have a supply of white onions," Panganiban said.