Onion supply shortage triggers price hike in Mindanao

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/ 13 December)— Prices of onion have skyrocketed in parts of Mindanao due to supply shortage in the last several weeks, officials of the Department of Agriculture-Region 12 (DA-12) here said.

Harmie Hechanova, DA-12 high value crops program regional coordinator, said they activated early this week the “Bantay Presyo” or price watch to monitor the prices of the commodity not just in the region but also in other parts of Mindanao.

“Prices of onion in various parts of Mindanao spiked these days due to lack of supply from Luzon. We are dependent on Luzon. Most of Mindanao is not suitable for onion production,” he said.

Edgar Allan Pasaol, DA-12 information officer, said that onion production in the country is currently off-season.

He said the regional agriculture office conducted a price monitoring after an individual he did not name complained about the skyrocketing prices of onion to Hotline 8888, the national government’s citizens compliant help desk.

A MindaNews monitoring showed the price for medium-sized onions fetched only P95 per kilogram (kg) in late October in parts of Region 12.

Citing their monitoring as of Wednesday, Hechanova said the price per kilo of medium to large-sized onions in some parts of Region 12 reached a high of P180 to P240 per kg.

In the Davao and Caraga regions and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, onion prices also surged to P200 to P250 per kg, depending on the sizes, he added.

Hechanova said they are still trying to contact their counterparts in Northern Mindanao and Western Mindanao for the prices of onion there.

Crop conversion

Region 12 or Soccsksargen, which straddles the provinces of South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong and Kidapawan, could have cushioned the drastic price increase for onion if not for crop conversion, Hechanova pointed out.

The region had at least 400 hectares of onion plantations in 2012 but the farmers decided to shift to banana with the expansion of agribusiness firms in the area, he said.

Hechanova said Barangay San Jose in General Santos City (Gensan) used to be a major producer of onions in the region.

He stressed the DA-12 is talking to farmers in Gensan to encourage them to revert to onion production so the region will not be dependent on Luzon for onions, a common ingredient in Filipino cuisine.

Hechanova said they expect the high prices of onion to linger until March when Luzon will start to harvest the crop.

The official noted they are checking the availability of imported onions in Luzon for possible shipment to Mindanao to arrest the skyrocketing prices.

He warned local retailers to follow the suggested retail prices set by the Department of Trade and Industry, otherwise they could be penalized for overpricing. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)