Serving Food for the Rich

by: Esmar Angelo M. Abobo || Photo Credit: AFP-JIJI/The Japan Times

It is without a doubt that onions are a staple in Filipino cuisine. From homemade meals to haute dishes, onions are highly desired with an average monthly demand of 17,000 metric tons. However, entering the year 2023, the country has been continuously experiencing a shortage of onions, causing a massive increase in inflation, with prices soaring to around 600 to 700 pesos per kilogram in local markets. 

Are onions even necessary?

“I can live without onions,” stated Senator Cynthia Villar – Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform – in an interview regarding an issue on smuggled agricultural goods.

 Given Villar’s position, this statement is not only uncompassionate to those who are affected by this crisis, but it also signifies her lack of knowledge on how a simple crop is essential to many Filipinos’ lives, especially considering that onion continues to be a staple in Filipino cuisine.

What are the causes of this shortage and massive inflation and how is it currently being addressed?

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, onion production in the third quarter of 2022 was recorded at 23.30 metric tons, which is only a 1.7 percent increase from an unacknowledged output in the same quarter of the previous year.

Along with the absence of an experienced secretary for the Department of Agriculture, there is a multitude of other reasons that may have caused this price hike. For one, the Philippines, as a tropical country, is relatively subject to climate change with rising temperatures, fluctuations in the weather, and increased rainfall, therefore making the country’s crop growth susceptible to disruption. On top of that, the Russian-Ukraine War also contributes to this issue. With the constant global supply chain in disrepair brought by the war, prices also have increased due to the shortage.

Although President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. acts as the current secretary for the Department of Agriculture, the focus on agricultural problems has significantly lessened. With the duties he has as the head of the country, juggling the roles of both vital positions is definitely not the best way to go about this crisis. The president must appoint a skilled DOA secretary that would not just attend to the current onion inflation but also other problems in the agricultural sector.

Currently, the government has resorted to boosting onion importation, increasing the prices due to overseas transport, and overlooking the country’s local farmers. Up to this day, the public is still in the dark about whether or not there’s a guaranteed permanent solution to the shortage. The once standard ingredient that was made for every Filipino now suddenly turned into a delicacy that only the higher class can enjoy without worry. And as its prices continue to increase,  the longer the public continues serving food for the rich.

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