Manila, Philippines – To support local farmers and their produce in the country, the Department of Agriculture (DA) will build six cold storage facilities in the Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon and Mimaropa regions this year.
The facilities will cost up to PHP40 million to build, with a capacity of 20,000 bags each.
With the current low supply of local onions not meeting the market demand, prices for the commodity have gone up as much as PHP540 – PHP700 per kilogram in December 2022 as monitored by the DA.
To address the crisis, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who currently heads the DA, had given the green light for the importation of more than 21,000 metric tons of onions earlier this year, which are expected to be brought into the country by Jan. 27.
Marcos however noted that importation should not be the go-to solution for lowering market prices of commodities.
“We have to go back to the onion growers and help them so that we can have production, we don’t need to import. We became so used to importation… When we take supplies from abroad, its inflationary forces are also being brought to the Philippines,” he said.
“Sana itong taon na ito ay madagdagan significantly yung investment na doon sa cold storages na ‘yan. Nueva Ejica, Pangasinan, Mindoro, lahat (Hopefully this year, investment in cold storages is significantly increased. Nueva Ejica, Pangasinan, Mindoro, all of them). These are the key producing provinces,” former DA secretary William Dar said.
“That will give them the leverage to now discuss with traders. Presently, kung wala silang cold storages, ay talagang binabarat ng mga traders (Presently, if they don’t have cold storages, traders really lowball them),” he added.
Cold storages are expected to safely prolong the shelf life of onions up to seven months, preventing post-harvest losses as much as possible.
With the preservation of the onions’ good quality, farmers can still obtain a good price for their products.
The DA previously turned over two cold onion storage facilities in March 2022. One in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija with a capacity of 10,000 bags, and another in Moncada, Tarlac which cost PHP20 million that can house 20,000 bags.
Dar suggested investing in better technologies and onion variants, and increasing land area devoted to onion production to help with the farmers’ productivity and to avoid future shortages.
He also emphasized the need to plan ahead, hopefully with a full-time DA secretary, to analyze the country’s supply and demand, to be aware of probable shortages and to make the necessary importations beforehand, making sure these are well-timed and would not hurt the local produce’s market standing.