House Speaker Martin G. Romualdez has welcomed the move of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to implement a suggested retail price (SRP) for onions to protect consumers from profiteers and price manipulators as he also called for a crackdown against onion cartels.
Earlier, a ranking official said the DA would likely start Tuesday, or within this week, the implementation of an SRP of P150 per kilo for red onions and P140 per kilo for white onions with a warning that refusal to comply may lead to filing of charges in court.
“The imposition of a SRP for onions, particularly now that market prices are on the uptrend anew, will shield our consumers from unconscionably high prices,” Romualdez said.
“But extreme care should be taken to ensure that in the imposition of the SRP, the interest of stakeholders such as the consumers, the traders, the market vendors, and especially our onion farmers are suitably protected,” he added.
Romualdez also believes the imposition of the SRP alone would not address the recurring problem of wild price fluctuations of onion.
“As the hearings of the House Committee on Agriculture and Food have indicated, dismantling the onion cartel is a key element in ensuring the stable price of this commodity. Unless we destroy this cartel, this problem will haunt us again and again in the future,” Romualdez said.
Earlier, Romualdez urged authorities like the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine Competition Commission, and the DA to work together and pursue the leads obtained in the congressional hearings to build an airtight case against the onion cartel.
“Putting members of this cartel behind bars will send the unmistakable message that the government will not tolerate any unfair trade practices that prey on the hapless consumer and farmers,” he said.
Furthermore, Romualdez has called for appropriate government assistance and incentives for farmers, particularly those growing onions, to encourage additional production and ensure ample supply.
“The DA should provide necessary aid to our farmers, such as fertilizers, and build more cold storage facilities to encourage increased production. If we can produce enough, cartels will find it difficult to control the supply and manipulate prices,” he said.
“The House of Representatives will be open to proposals from the DA geared towards achieving our food security goals,” the lawmaker added.
It could be recalled that when prices of onion surged to over P700 a kilo in December last year, Romualdez called for a congressional investigation in aid of legislation to address the issue and protect the consumers.
DA Assistant Secretary and spokesperson Kristine Evangelista earlier disclosed that the DA will also meet with stakeholders, led by farmers’ group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG), to discuss the issues affecting the supply and cost of onions.
“We invited the stakeholders amid the increasing retail price of onions in the markets, ranging from P170 to P200 per kilo,” she said.
Evangelista added that the implementation of P150 per kilo SRP and the importation of onions would also be on the agenda during agriculture officials’ consultation with farmers’ groups.
“[The SRP] will be part of the agenda, but before we can decide to impose an SRP, we have to make sure that we are using the right prices, and we are all on the same page in terms of farm-gate expenses of the traders,” Evangelista said.
An SRP of P150 per kilo will ensure profit for traders and retailers, she added.