Gov’t goes after onion traders to address falling prices
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the Department of Agriculture (DA) has asked the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate and conduct raids of cold storage facilities leased and closed down by big trading firms to force farmers to sell at low prices.
“I sent two official communications to PCC Executive Director Kenneth Tanate and NBI Director Dante Gierran asking the two agencies to take action against owners of cold storage facilities who have connived with onion traders by refusing to take in farmers onion produce,” Piñol said.
“By preventing farmers from storing their produce in the cold storage facilities, the traders expect farmers to sell at low prices. Prices of red onion fell from a high of P30 before harvest to only about P15 now,” he added.
Among the companies targeted for investigation are Rivson, Argo, Kasamne and Titan, all in Nueva Ecija. They could be charged for possible violation of Fair Competition and Economic Sabotage.
“With bumper harvest of onion now in Central Luzon, Mindoro and Iloilo, traders have started their manipulation of the market. The practice in the onion industry is for local farmers to store their excess production in cold storage facilities and release this to the market at off-season,” Piñol said.
Right now, the DA is funding the construction of three more cold storage facilities this year in Tarlac, Mindoro and Iloilo.
DA Undersecretary for Operations Ariel Cayanan and the Agricultural Credit Policy Council Executive Director Jocelyn Badiola have been ordered to help onion farmers pending results of the investigation.