THE DEPARTMENT of Agriculture (DA) approved a suggested retail price (SRP) of P125 a kilo for imported red onions in the National Capital Region (NCR) starting on Wednesday.
DA Assistant Secretary Kristine Y. Evangelista said stakeholders had recommended the price at a meeting on Friday.
“This has been approved. We took into consideration the importers’ price… wholesalers’ price, plus the expenses of retailers,” she told reporters in mixed English and Filipino on Monday. “With that, we came up with a price of P125 that was agreed upon by retailers.”
The DA will work with “market masters” to disseminate information about the SRP. The local price coordinating council will monitor and enforce the price in markets.
Ms. Evangelista said the department had made a cost structure to guide retailers in negotiating with the suppliers and in following the SRP.
“Since we took into consideration the landed cost, as agreed upon by the importers, we believe that the retailers will not have the reason not to sell at a proper price,” she said.
The SRP will only be implemented in NCR, she added.
At least 3,500 metric tons (MT) out of 21,000 MT that were authorized for importation arrived before the Jan. 27 deadline set by the agency.
Based on DA’s latest price monitoring, imported red onions per kilo is sold in wet markets at P180-P260; local red onions at P230-P320; and local white onions at P120-P250.
Raul Q. Montemayor, national manager of the Federation of Free Farmers, said the issue on onions has revealed the inefficiency and manipulation in local agricultural food markets.
“It is also sad that they are now using the imported onions to drive down the cost of local onions,” he told BusinessWorld in a Viber message.
Mr. Montemayor lamented how the DA had refused to import onions and allowed prices to remain high in December, which benefited traders and hoarders.
“Now that farmers are trying to get the best possible prices for their products, they are driving down the retail price of imports, and this will definitely result in lower farmgate prices for farmers. Whose side is the DA on?”
Ms. Evangelista said the agency is working closely with different agencies to help farmers and address hoarding.
On the other hand, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) Executive Director Jayson H. Cainglet said importation is “a death sentence” for local producers as farmgate prices of local onions continued to fall.
“The SRP on imported onions is meant to curb the exorbitant profits of importers while protecting the interest of consumers to buy cheaper onions,” he told BusinessWorld in a Viber message.
SINAG is discussing the SRP for local onions with the DA, Bureau of Plant Industry, onion farmers and other stakeholders.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on Monday said it would help the DA in monitoring the P125 a kilo SRP for imported onions.
“If it is really priced at P125, we all want that for consumer protection. So, we’ll find where that P125 price of onion is, to make sure that it is complied with by retailers,” Trade Undersecretary Ruth B. Castelo said at a televised briefing.
Based on the DTI’s own monitoring, she noted the retail price of onion still reaches as high as P350 per kilo, although some supermarkets are selling local onions at P180 per kilo.
“The prices of onion will start to decline once we get the local onion harvest. With the entry of the local harvest, there would be also a need to adjust the prices of imported onions,” Ms. Castelo added.
NEW SRP BULLETIN
Meanwhile, the DTI is still looking at some figures before releasing the updated SRP bulletin for basic necessities and prime commodities (BNPCs).
“But as of now, consumers are rest assured that the prices of all the products in the SRP bulletin of the DTI are not moving. Until we make a new (SRP) publication after the August 2022 (SRP) publication, only then can our retailers increase prices in the market,” Ms. Castelo said.
In August 2022, the DTI issued an SRP bulletin, which reflected price increases for 67 out of 218 stock keeping units (SKUs) that were driven by surging production costs. Price increases at that time ranged from 3.29% to 10%.
Some of the BNPCs that posted price increases in the August 2022 SRP bulletin were canned sardines, coffee, noodles, bottled water, processed milk, detergent soap, candle, and condiments.
Previously, the DTI confirmed that there are pending price hike requests for BNPCs such as canned sardines, processed milk, coffee, instant noodles, bread, candles, bath soap, and detergent.
“We have seen justifications from the manufacturers on why they need to raise prices by so much. Because of the varying percentage and peso value of their price increases, we have seen a lot that are possible or justified,” Ms. Castelo said, adding that the DTI may still negotiate with manufacturers to implement smaller or staggered price increases. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera and Revin Mikhael D. Ochave