Although lower onion prices due to imports may seem like good news to consumers, it may be a matter of life and death for certain farmers.
Monday, January 16th, Merlita Gallardo highlighted the suffering of onion growers in Bayambang, Pangasinan before a Senate committee hearing. Her husband, who had helped their family operate the farm, committed himself in 2021 after an armyworm infestation ruined their crops and buried them in millions of dollars of debt.
Gallardo attempted to persevere by cultivating onions like she had in the past, but a series of storms in 2022 ruined her harvests.
“Nalugi din po kasi nag-ulit na naman ako. Nag-ano na naman sa ‘min ‘yung ulan noong nag-ulit ako, kaya maliit pa rin ‘yung ibang sibuyas namin,” she said during the hearing conducted by the Senate committee on agriculture, food, and agrarian reform.
After she had replanted the onions, a new obstacle presented itself; this one was man-made. The impending arrival of inexpensive imported onions might cause prices to fall just as farmers begin harvesting.
Elvin Laceda, national president of Young Growers Challenge Club of the Philippines, a group that assisted onion farmers like Gallardo, stated, “Now they are hoping to harvest, but because of importation, their onions will not mature in 100 days; they will need to harvest between 85 to 90 days.”
(They were now on the road to recovery, but due to imports, they had to harvest their onions 85 to 90 days before the 100-day mark.)
“‘Yung storya ni Nanay, sana hindi na maulit sa ibang magsasaka. Limang magsasaka po ang nag-suicide po doon sa barangay nila,” Laceda added.
(I hope her tale never occurs again among farmers. Five farmers committed suicide in their community.)
Senator Imee Marcos stated during the hearing, “I am fully aware of the suicides of onion farmers not only in Pangasinan but also in Nueva Ecija and Pampanga, where the miserable prices of March and April barely covered the cost of production, and yet here in Metro Manila, we have been unable to procure onions at a reasonable price despite the established SRPs of P150, P250, etc.”