Onions in Philippines ‘the most expensive in the world’; here’s why

The country is now looking into importing onions for immediate delivery to bring down exorbitant prices that have contributed to 14-year-high inflation

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Reuters file photo
Reuters file photo

By Web Desk

Published: Tue 10 Jan 2023, 10:28 AM

Last updated: Tue 10 Jan 2023, 12:02 PM

Households in the Philippines have been feeling the pinch of skyrocketing prices of basic commodities — but the current cost of onions, they said, was unimaginable.

Retail prices of red onions has skyrocketed to as high as 700 pesos ($12.70) per kilogramme in recent days in Manila markets, possibly the most expensive in the world according to some economists.

That compares with 120 pesos to 170 pesos per kg about four months ago.

Though many other countries are reeling under an inflation crisis, the spike in Philippine onion prices was so sharp that authorities have now opened an investigation. Smuggling, price manipulation, and hoarding are being cited as possible reasons.

An official of the Department of Agriculture earlier said they have discovered a smuggling syndicate that has been hoarding the items, and then keeping them in cold-storage warehouses.


The Bureau of Customs have also foiled huge smuggling attempts recently. Last week, it intercepted 17 million pesos (Dh1.14 million) worth of white onions, which were hidden in three cargo shipments declared as having clothing items and home products. Two other hauls worth 50 million pesos (Dh3.36 million) were also reported a few weeks ago.

There’s also the case of price manipulation at farm gates — which could be the reason why the imposition of a 250-peso suggested retail price failed to bring down rates, the authorities said in local media reports.

“There are two areas, one is agricultural smuggling and the other is price manipulation,” Department of Agriculture assistant secretary Kristine Evangelista said in an interview for a show on CNN Philippines. “We are looking at all angles in the same manner that we are also looking at all other options to be able to provide agricultural commodities at affordable prices.”

Import plan

The Philippines is now looking into importing onions for immediate delivery to boost a tight supply and bring down exorbitant prices that have contributed to 14-year-high inflation, an agriculture official said on Monday.

The plan to import emerged just days after the Department of Agriculture said it would not import onions as the local harvest season was about to begin and expected to peak in February onwards.

The Philippines is a regular onion importer and usually buys from China and other Asian neighbours.

“We don’t really have (enough) supply of onions,” Mercedita Sombilla, undersecretary for planning at the Department of Agriculture, told Reuters. “We were really trying to see whether we need to import a little bit.”

Monthly domestic demand for onions is about 22,000 tonnes, she said.

(With inputs from Reuters, Philippine News Agency)


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