DA, onion growers agree to continue making local onion industry more competitive
To address issues and challenges that continue to affect the local onion industry, key officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) led by Secretary William Dar and the onion farmer-leaders from Nueva Ecija and Occidental Mindoro met for a dialogue to come up with strategies to make local farmers more competitive.
“We have used properly this opportunity to listen to you and articulate what can be done by the government so that we can continue to make you competitive. Dapat kaya natin makipagtunggali sa mga magsasaka sa ibang parte ng mundo by way of adopting the best technologies and innovations para mapataas natin ang inyong ani at kita,” Secretary Dar said during the dialogue on February 22, 2022.
The farmer-leaders consulted with the DA regarding the major concerns faced by the local onion industry.
These include the declining price of local onion this season and competition with imported onions, identifying markets where they can immediately sell their harvest, and finding storage warehouses for their surplus.
On the issue of importation, Secretary Dar cited the Department Circular No. 08, series of 2021 or the Additional Guidelines on the Importation of Fresh Onions issued on December 14, 2021.
It aims to address the concerns of the onion industry to manage onion importation while ensuring its availability for the local market, thus additional guidelines and requirements shall be implemented on the issuance of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance (SPSIC).
The Circular states that the issuance of SPSICs for fresh onion will be based on the importation period specified in the Certificate of Necessity to Import (CNI), which shall include the volume to be imported and the specific period for import arrival.
In addition, it directs the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) to consult with the farmers, traders, and importers regarding the schedule of planting, harvest, storage, importation, marketing, and distribution of fresh onion.
“Let’s be strictly guided by those seasons and follow the guidelines. The import clearances will be properly guided by the dialogues and the CNI processes we have laid out,” the secretary stressed.
The farmer-leaders agreed that compliance to the said guidelines will help them in a big way. In terms of marketing the farmers’ produce, the DA-Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service (AMAS) committed to continue their market matching activities to find buyers and coordinate with the Food Terminal Inc. to serve as temporary product drop-off while waiting for the identified buyers.
Secretary Dar said that marketing support is key and committed for the DA to continue with the intervention including the identification and provision of cold storages.
The DA will also intensify its anti-smuggling campaign. The secretary directed the BPI to exercise its police powers, coordinate with the DA’s economic intelligence team, and monitor the inventory of cold storage warehouses with documentation.
“We have to be very clear with our farmers that we are sincere in helping them. We will continue to look at opportunities to reduce cost of agricultural inputs in many ways. Let’s see to it that they deserve continuous good income para masustain nila itong onion industry,” Secretary Dar said.
He also noted that the increase in onion production is an indication that the sector can be self-sufficient when properly supported.
“Gusto nga natin ang onion industry can be one of those that we can be competitive even to export in the end pag maganda na, kompleto na yung mga postharvest facilities natin,” the secretary said adding that the government will continue its support to make the farmers more productive and prosperous.
To institutionalize the regular dialogue with the farmer-leaders, the secretary also directed to put up a team from the office of the Undersecretary for Operations, Undersecretary for High Value Crops, and the BPI.
DA officials who attended the dialogue include Undersecretary for Operations Ariel Cayanan, Undersecretary for High Value Crops and Rural Credit Evelyn Laviña, and Undersecretary for Consumer and Political Affairs Kristine Evangelista.
Assistant Secretary for Operations Arnel De Mesa, Assistant Secretary for Strategic Communications Noel Reyes, BPI Director George Culaste, AMAS Director Ramon Yedra, and High Value Crops Development Program Director Gerald Glenn Panganiban were also present during the dialogue. ### (Gumamela Celes Bejarin, DA-AFID)