Economy 2 MIN READ

Philippines to boost onion imports to help inflation-hit consumers

January 10, 2023By Reuters

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has cleared the importation of up to 21,060 tonnes of onions, an agriculture official said on Tuesday, as the government seeks to address tight supply and stabilize soaring domestic prices.

Prices of onions, widely used in many local dishes, have more than quadrupled in about four months, contributing to double-digit food inflation seen in December.

The importation of yellow and red onions will help fill the supply gap until the peak of the local harvest beginning in February, said Rex Estoperez, a spokesperson at the Department of Agriculture.

Retail prices of the more widely-consumed red onions skyrocketed to as high as 700 pesos (USD 12.70) per kilogram in recent days in Manila markets, among the highest in the world, according to some economists.

Food prices helped push the consumer price index last month up 8.1% from a year earlier, the fastest rise in 14 years, bringing full-year average inflation to 5.8%, outside the central bank’s 2%-4% target range.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Felipe Medalla on Tuesday signaled further interest rates hikes this year to bring inflation back within a target range of 2% to 4%.

Accredited importers could bring in cargoes in just seven days, Estoperez said, with authorities setting a period until Jan. 27 to ship in the entire volume.

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

The government was expecting the local harvest to produce close to 20,000 tonnes of onions this month, compared with monthly domestic demand of about 22,000 tonnes.

“Even with that production I think we still really need to intervene in the market to help push the prices a little bit lower,” Mercedita Sombilla, agriculture undersecretary for planning, told Reuters.

(Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Martin Petty and Ed Davies)

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