By Azer Parrocha

File photo

MANILA – The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Sunday said it is considering selling government-seized onions at Kadiwa ng Pasko sites to ease the burden of Filipinos amid the rising onion prices that go as high as PHP300 per kilo.

In an interview over DZBB, DA deputy spokesperson Rex Estoperez said DA Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban told him that they would consider selling the onions should they be found in compliance with phytosanitary import requirements.

“Marami sila nahuli. Ang tanong namin ‘yan ba pag nilabas natin sa merkado at saka Kadiwa, legal o maayos ba ‘yan? So bago natin ilalabas ‘yan tingnan muna kung safe ‘yan o hindi…May phytosanitary inspection tayo eh (They seized a lot of onions. But the question is, are they legal or safe if we choose to release them in markets and Kadiwa? So before we release them we have to check if they’re safe…We have to subject them to a phytosanitary inspection first),” he said.

“Sabi naman ni Usec. Panganiban, sige tignan niyo at gawin natin, ituloy natin ‘yan, ilagay natin sa mga Kadiwa para makabili ng mura yung ating mga kababayan (Usec. Panganiban said okay let’s inspect and then sell them at Kadiwa sites so Filipinos could buy affordable onions),” he added.

Consumers could buy onions at PHP170 per kilo at Kadiwa sites. To date, there are nearly 400 Kadiwa sites nationwide.

Estoperez said although the agency might eventually resort to importing onions, it will have to strike a balance between the interests of consumers and producers.

He also warned unscrupulous producers and middlemen against unfairly jacking up onion prices.

“Nanawagan na nga ang Pangulo, sige tumulong kayo, mag cooperate tayo nagsasamantala ka pa rin. Eh ang hirap kaya kung ang nakaugalian mo nagsasamantala ka, eh talagang forever na ‘yun. ‘Yun nga lang, huwag ka lang matamaan ng karma (The President is calling on everyone to help and cooperate, and you still take advantage of others. You’re going to be that way forever if it’s something you’re used to. The thing is, I hope karma doesn’t hit you),” he said.

Estoperez said a slight increase in the prices of onions and other agricultural products was fine as long as this was fair.

“Yun ang utos ng Presidente food security tapos ikaw sini-secure mo lang sarili mo. Hindi naman tama ‘yun (The President wants food security and you secure money for yourself. That’s not right),” he added.

On Saturday, the DA announced that some 100 metric tons (MT) of misdeclared white onions amounting to PHP30 million were seized at the Manila International Container Port.

At least 1,000 bags of white onions were also confiscated from a warehouse on Sto. Cristo Street in Tondo, Manila on Friday.

Meat and fish

Meanwhile, Estoperez said the DA is assessing whether Kadiwa sites could also start to welcome producers selling meat and fish.

“Ang problema natin (Our problem is) we cannot man yung Kadiwa ng baboy at isda (Kadiwa stores selling pork and fish). Siguro kung may private sector na magpartner sa atin na mayroon silang mga cold storage na nakatutok dun, baka pwede (But perhaps if we can partner with the private sector who can provide cold storage, maybe we can do it),” he said.

The Kadiwa ng Pasko caravan is an initiative of the Office of the President and led by the DA to promote affordable and high-quality products.

The program gives consumers the opportunity to buy affordable goods and provides a market to local agricultural producers as well as micro, small and medium enterprises. (PNA)