Philippines may import onions amid armyworm infestation

Bella Cariaso - The Philippine Star
Philippines may import onions amid armyworm infestation
onions Porters pull a sackload of imported red onions to be delivered at the different stalls at the vegetable section in the city market.
The STAR / Andy G. Zapata Jr.

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines might have to import up to 60,000 metric tons of onions as 45 percent of plantations are affected by harabas or armyworm infestations that worsened due to El Niño, according to the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI).

“My expectation was only five percent (of onion farms) will be affected by harabas but it has worsened because of El Niño. The armyworms are really attacking the onion plantations,” PCAFI president Danilo Fausto said yesterday.
Fausto, who owns an onion farm in Nueva Ecija, noted that his production dropped by 40 percent due to armyworms.

“Luckily, I decided to harvest two weeks ahead. If not, my farm will be wiped out. El Niño caused the worms to multiply. We cannot control the spread. We sprayed insecticides morning and afternoon but we failed to control,” he added.

Aside from Nueva Ecija, also affected by armyworm infestations were other onion-producing provinces like Ilocos, Pangasinan and Mindoro, Fausto said.

“Based on our projection, (armyworms) will result in 20 to 30 percent reduction in the harvest (of onions),” he noted.

“We previously requested the Department of Agriculture (DA) to suspend the importation (of onions). We are asking for a suspension until July. (The importation of onions) may start in May. We have 40 more areas planted with onions this year but because of harabas, we don’t expect an increase in harvest,” he added.

In 2023, the country’s total onion harvest reached 242,000 MT, he said.

“We need at least 262,000 MT (of onions annually),” he added.

The farmgate price of onions was pegged at P40 per kilo, he noted.
“It increased. Last week, it was P32 (per kilo). It increased as traders competed as they needed to store the bulbs in cold storage. It is now between P41 and P42 per kilo,” he said.

The peak harvest season will be until April, he noted.

Based on the DA’s monitoring, the retail price of red onions ranged between P60 and P120 per kilo and white onions, between P50 and P120 per kilo.

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