Philippines to boost onion imports to help inflation-hit consumers

January 11, 2023 - 10:04 AM
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Red onions are being sold for P400 to P600 per kilo at Balintawak Market in Quezon City on Thursday, December 29 (Jesse Bustos/The Philippine STAR)
  • Govt clears immediate shipment of 21,000 T of onions
  • Philippine onion prices currently among the world’s highest
  • Onion shipments should arrive not later than Jan. 27

 Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has cleared the importation of up to 21,060 tonnes of onions, an agriculture official said on Tuesday, as the government seeks to address tight supply and stabilize soaring domestic prices.

Prices of onions, widely used in many local dishes, have more than quadrupled in about four months, contributing to double-digit food inflation seen in December.

The importation of yellow and red onions will help fill the supply gap until the peak of the local harvest beginning in February, said Rex Estoperez, a spokesperson at the Department of Agriculture.

RELATED: Philippines mulls more onion imports amid inflation fears

Retail prices of the more widely-consumed red onions skyrocketed to as high as 700 pesos ($12.70) per kilogramme in recent days in Manila markets, among the highest in the world, according to some economists.

Food prices helped push the consumer price index last month up 8.1% from a year earlier, the fastest rise in 14 years, bringing full-year average inflation to 5.8%, outside the central bank’s 2%-4% target range.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Felipe Medalla on Tuesday signalled further interest rates hikes this year to bring inflation back within a target range of 2% to 4%.

READ: BSP chief sees lower pressure to match future Fed hikes

Accredited importers could bring in cargoes in just seven days, Estoperez said, with authorities setting a period until Jan. 27 to ship in the entire volume.

The Philippines is a regular onion importer and usually buys from China and other Asian neighbours.

The government was expecting the local harvest to produce close to 20,000 tonnes of onions this month, compared with monthly domestic demand of about 22,000 tonnes.

“Even with that production I think we still really need to intervene in the market to help push the prices a little bit lower,” Mercedita Sombilla, agriculture undersecretary for planning, told Reuters.

—Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Martin Petty and Ed Davies

RELATED: ‘Sisig without onions?’: Pinoys scratch heads as their meal orders become onion-less