Philippines mulls more onion imports amid inflation fears

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A vendor is seen selling red onions for P500 per kilo at a public market in Marikina City on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022 (Jesse Bustos/The Philippine STAR)

The Philippines is looking into importing onions for immediate delivery to boost a tight supply and bring down exorbitant prices that have contributed to 14-year-high inflation, an agriculture official said on Monday.

Retail prices of red onions has skyrocketed to as high as 700 pesos ($12.70) per kilogramme in recent days in Manila markets, possibly the most expensive in the world according to some economists.

That compares with 120 pesos to 170 pesos per kg about four months ago.

The plan to import emerged just days after the Department of Agriculture said it would not import onions as the local harvest season was about to begin and expected to peak in February onwards.

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

“We don’t really have (enough) supply of onions,” Mercedita Sombilla, undersecretary for planning at the Department of Agriculture, told Reuters. “We were really trying to see whether we need to import a little bit.”

Monthly domestic demand for onions is about 22,000 tonnes, she said.

Philippine consumer prices soared to 8.1% in December from a year earlier PHCPI=ECI, the highest since 2008, largely driven by double-digit food inflation, which economists said is likely to prompt further monetary policy tightening this year.

Sombilla said there was about close to 20,000 tonnes of local onion harvest expected in January.

“Even with that production I think we still really need to intervene in the market to help push the prices a little bit lower,” she said.

—Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Martin Petty

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