Amid onion crisis, lawmakers propose ‘Onion Research Institute’

Lawmakers from Nueva Ecija, a province known for its onion production, have proposed creating an Onion Research Institute to address the country’s onion crisis, including local supply issues.

The bills were filed by Nueva Ecija’s 1st District Rep. Mikaela Angela B. Suansing and 3rd District Rep. Rosanna Vergara (3rd district).

The measure intends to spearhead research work for the onion industry to explore processes that will improve productivity and supply.

The legislation comes amid expensive prices of the staple good in the Philippines since last year, with the market rate reaching as high as PHP700 (US$12.97) a kilo, leading to hordes of smuggled onions.

The government then approved the importation of over 21,000 metric tons of onions in January to curb the inflated prices — but local farmers argued that the move would harm them further after sustaining losses in the previous harvest season due to pests and typhoons. They added that traders would use the importation to strong-arm their way into buying their harvest at low farmgate prices.

The Department of Agriculture reported in 2019 that Nueva Ecija was responsible for 54 percent of the onion supply in the country.

However, Vergara said that areas for onion production have dwindled in the province, decreasing from 2,300 hectares in 2019 to 1,400 hectares in 2020. She attributed this to importation, smuggling, pest infestation, and climate change.

Vergara supported farmers’ claims that middlemen use the timing of importation to lowball farmgate prices.

The lawmakers’ bills both propose the onion-producing town of Bongabon to be declared as the Philippines’ onion capital to help fortify its dwindling production.

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