By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The Philippines is now all set to export onion to Indonesia as part of efforts to address its falling prices.
“The Philippines, which for years has relied mainly on imported onion both for household and commercial uses, is now all set to make its first export of white and red bulb onion and shallots to Indonesia,” Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel Piñol declared.
He said that a group of Filipino onion and shallot farmers from Central Luzon, Cagayan Valley, Mindoro and Iloilo recently met with a representative of Indonesian companies, Deeda Pama, to present samples of the export quality onion and shallots produced in Nueva Ecija this season.
To proceed with the export of white and red bulb onion and shallots to Indonesia, samples will be shipped to Indonesia through the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) Philippine Embassy in Jakarta.
The business engagement between the farmers and Pama was facilitated by DA officials.
The reopening of the Indonesian market for Philippine onion and shallots, including bananas, came after the bilateral meeting between Indonesian Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita and Piñol and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez held here last month.
The Philippines used to export shallots to Indonesia but this has stopped when the production of onion and shallots dropped, making the country dependent on imports.
However, the resumption of exports to Indonesia comes at a time when local onion production can only supply 70 percent of the country’s total requirements. But Piñol said this volume is already sufficient for household needs.
The target of the Department of Agriculture (DA) is that by 2020, the country must already be producing 90 percent of the country’s total onion requirements.
But this goal is currently faced with some challenges, including the issue of smuggling, price manipulation, and lack of post-harvest facilities.
In March, Piñol temporarily suspended the importation of onion while calling for an investigation on the possible price manipulation of the commodity among certain traders.
This was after prices of red onion fell from a high of P30 per kilo before harvest to only about P10 per kilo now.
He suspected that some trading firms deliberately closed down their major cold storage facilities to force farmers to sell at low prices.
As the DA expects another bumper harvest next year, it has earmarked loan funds which onion farmers group could access to build their own cold storage.
He said that at least 10 cold storage facilities are lined up for establishment in the onion production areas this year.
Data from the Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that native onion production during the fourth quarter of 2018 went up by 1.0 percent from 9.23 thousand metric tons (MT) in the same quarter of 2017 to 9.32 thousand MT.
Ilocos Region produced 9.31 thousand MT, which accounted for 99.8 percent of the total native onion output during the period.