Only in the Philippines.
So the past months has been a woe in the cost of onions. Onions, for God’s sake.
This country never ceases to amaze the rest of the world. A third world nation with an agricultural land that occupies 13.42 million hectares (as of 2020) has hogged the media headlines over the skyrocketing prices of – yes, ONIONS!
The cost of onions in the country is 700-800% its actual market value. It’s more expensive than a kilo of pork or chicken, and is the most expensive vegetable in the BAHAY KUBO song. At 750-800 pesos ($12.50) per kg of onion.
How did it get to this point?
I mean, seriously, we just go ahead and blame everything in skyrocketing costs to the Ukraine and Russian war or the extreme weather disasters and supply chain snags occurring, but the buck stops with the Department of Agriculture.
Some lawmakers have raised the issue of an “onion cartel” that hoards and controls and manipulates the onion prices from the farm gate to the market by big traders. In a country that is as poor as the Philippines, having a cartel that controls which prices of basic goods and commodities from the angle to supply and demand should be punishable by life imprisonment. But we know who these big players are, don’t we? After all, we’ve gone through shortages in rice, sugar, garlic and other basic commodities in the past. It’s just that the shortage of onions is the icing on the cake.
Besides, it’s not like an overnight problem. The dwindling supply of onions was noted as early as August 2022. The solution of importation of onions should have been made at the point of recognition. This is called risk mitigation. Because no one did anything as early as then, some groups have profited big time in this onion depletion fiasco.
The president has now allowed the importation of onions to mitigate this problem. But it is harvest season for onions, according to farmers. Which means that in the coming weeks, there would be an oversupply. And that would bring the cost of onions down – to the detriment of the farmers.
Such a shame that in an agricultural developing nation like the Philippines, our main woes today are around the cost of onions.