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Senator Imee Marcos has called on the government for a comprehensive inventory of local white onions to determine the extent of a shortage caused by last summer’s lean harvest.

“Trace the traders who bought white onions from local farmers and find out if they are hoarding the crop in cold storage,” Marcos urged.

“Without a comprehensive inventory, we cannot arrive at a well-calibrated importation policy that answers consumer demand but also relieves our local growers from low farmgate prices,” the senator emphasized.

Marcos warned that smugglers of imported white onions are now taking advantage of the situation by selling to the restaurant industry at 10 times the usual price.

“Popular fastfood chains are complaining that what they used to buy at 40 pesos per kilo are now being sold to them at 400 by Divisoria-based traders,” Marcos said.

The Department of Agriculture has started listing the names of traders gathered from farmers in major onion-growing provinces like Nueva Ecija and Mindoro, but Marcos pressed for the inclusion of farmers in the Visayas and Mindanao to get a better grasp of the situation.

While awaiting the results of the inventory, Marcos urged the government to already link more local farmers with the restaurant industry, ahead of the next major harvest in April.

“We can shut out smugglers from the supply chain through contract-growing, wherein industrial buyers assure local growers of income from their upcoming harvests and, in turn, are assured supply of a staple ingredient in their food products,” she explained.

Marcos expressed worry that smaller harvests of white onions in November will fall short of higher demand when Christmas comes around.

“Wet weather conditions will aggravate the situation if these cause white onions to sprout or rot in storage,” she pointed out.

“Next year’s national budget should provide more cold storage facilities for our local farmers. For now, an inventory and contract-growing must be done as soon as possible,” Marcos said.