DA stops onion importation amid cartel probe
The Department of Agriculture (DA) will suspend the importation of bulb onions pending the results of the investigation of the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) over an alleged cartel manipulating the buying price of the commodity.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the suspension would prevent the cartel from benefiting from their operations wherein they forced the drop in the buying price of local onions by leasing and closing cold storage facilities to onion farmers.
Because of this, the DA asked the PCC and NBI to investigate reports that trading firms have closed down four major cold storage facilities in an apparent attempt to force farmers to sell at low prices.
The traders are expected to consolidate the local production as they await for the time when they will be allowed to import.
“With the farmers’ produce bought at very low prices cornered and consolidated, traders could control the pricing of onion in the market and generate huge profits,” Piñol said.
Under an arrangement agreed between farmers groups and the importers, the importation of onions would only be done after the harvest of the local onions.
The DA has directed the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) to support the arrangement by scheduling the processing of Sanitary and Pytho-Sanitary permits until after the harvest season.