March 29, 2004 (STAR) By Rocel Felix - The Department of Agriculture (DA) is stepping up measures to prop up onion prices, which dropped to a low of P5 per kilo last week due to an excess in supply.

Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo Jr. said yesterday he would tap a P10-million credit window from the Quedan Rural and Credit Guarantee Corp. (Quedancor) to help onion growers establish post-harvest facilities and marketing support.

The onion glut is causing the steady decline in prices. Last week, it dipped to only P5 per kilo from about P12 per kilo in previous weeks.

Traders taking advantage of the low price have made extensive purchases since they have access to cold storage facilities at the Cold Chain Association of the Philippines.

Onion producers have sought assistance from the DA to prevent this from happening again since they are expecting a bumper harvest this year.

The agriculture department estimates the onion harvest in onion-producing provinces such as Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan and Tarlac to reach 200,000 metric tons, or nearly twice the 106,000 metric tons harvested last year. Total demand for onion last year was 145,000 metric tons.

"I have also instructed our regional field unit directors and agribusiness and marketing assistance officers to link Luzon onion growers with stakeholders such as cold storage providers and institutional buyers in the Visayas and Mindanao regions to protect onion farmers from price fluctuations," Lorenzo said.

He also instructed Undersecretary Arthur Yap and Food Terminal Inc. president Bernie Fondevilla to commit cold storage space for about 8,000 metric tons of onion in FTI.

Other support measures that the DA has undertaken include linking onion growers with the manufacturer of red bags who assured growers of adequate supply.

A planning workshop for onion will also be held on March 30. The planning session will be participated in by farmer leaders, municipal agricultural officers and other DA officials.

The participants will prepare a production and crop rotation schedule in the major onion producing provinces. Market linkage plans will also be worked out.

"We have to promote production programming and crop diversification in order to prevent the recurrence of glut and drastic price fluctuations that the onion farmers recently experienced," Lorenzo said. 

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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