MANILA — With onion farmers enjoying bumper harvests in Central Luzon, the Department of Agriculture (DA) on Thursday called on middlemen not to take advantage of farmers and buy their produce at a reasonable price.
Agriculture Undersecretary Emerson Palad said middlemen should consider the welfare of the farmers, as well as consumers in mind.
”Maybe the middlemen should buy the onions from the farmers at a higher price. It is not right that the farmer, who took care of the onions for four months, gets so little while the middlemen who brought the onions to Manila for a few hours of work get double of what the farmer gets,” Palad said.
The DA official also appealed to cold-storage facility owners to accommodate onion farmers’ associations who want their surplus harvest stored.
“The DA is likewise studying the possibility of establishing cold-storage facilities for onion farmers,” he said.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said that the establishment of more Agri Pinoy Trading Centers (APTCs) would be a long-term solution to this issue.
According to the DA chief, the flow of goods will be smoother with the establishment and stabilization of more APTCs nationwide.
“As the operation of individual trading centers smoothens, other trading centers also stand to benefit since the establishment of the APTC is a holistic program — a chain linking one trading center to the other,” he said.
“APTCs are centers especially designed in order for farmers to get reasonable prices for their produce. With these trading centers, they would not have to rely on middlemen anymore,” Alcala said.
Earlier, Alcala allayed fears of an alleged looming onion crisis in Central Luzon.
“The prevailing low prices of the commodity could be the result of bumper harvests as more farmers were encouraged to plant and not due to the alleged stockpiling of imported onions,” he said.
This was attested by Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) OIC-Director Atty. Paz Benavidez II who said that that the agency has not issued any Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance (SPIC) to any importer for red onion since 2012, while less than 10,000 metric tons of white onion (yellow granex) has arrived from September 2014 to January this year.
Nonetheless, Alcala urged the onion industry to work closely with the DA in formulating strategies to address the situation and help farmers avoid further losses as oversupply naturally drives prices to lower levels.