The price of onions in the Philippines remains high. The picture shows an onion field in Bangkaben.

(AFP file photo)

[Central News Agency] The price of onions in the Philippines has soared recently, more than doubling within a month, even exceeding the daily minimum wage. The rare high price has made farmers in the producing areas rush to cash in on the onions without waiting for the onions to fully mature.

Agence France-Presse reported that the price of onions in the Philippines has continued to soar in recent months. The selling price in Manila supermarkets has reached a sky-high price of 800 pesos (about 15 US dollars, NT$440) per kilogram, even cheaper than chicken or pork. expensive.

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Some restaurants have been forced to remove onions from their ingredients, and many Filipino families suffering from the worst inflation in 14 years have long since given up onions.

In order to meet domestic demand and reduce the wholesale price of onions to below 200 pesos, the Philippine government has approved the import of 21,000 tons of onions. At the same time, it is also facing calls from all walks of life to ban suspected hoarders.

However, the price of onions remains high, and many onion farmers harvest early to catch up with this opportunity to make a fortune.

"What's happening now is unprecedented," said Luis Angeles, a 37-year-old onion farmer. "It's the first time that onion prices have gone up to this level."

In Bongabon, known as the "onion capital" in the northern Philippines, workers in Angelesis are pulling immature red and white bulbs from the soil.

When Angelis started harvesting onions last month, the price was P250 per kilogram.

But by the time his onions hit the shelves of supermarkets in Manila, the prices had more than tripled, even exceeding the daily minimum wage.

"I told my family, we smell the onion and don't eat it," said Candy Roasa, 56, who was walking by a supermarket in Manila when she saw an onion the size of a child's fist. The asking price is 80 pesos (about NT$44).

Social media is awash with memes about onions, the unassuming vegetable that has become a symbol of affluence in impoverished Filipinos.

One bride even used onion flowers as a bridal bouquet instead of regular flowers.

A Philippine Airlines crew recently tried to smuggle bags of onions into the Philippines from the Middle East and was caught at the airport in Manila.

This is not the first time a lack of basic goods has sparked price spikes in the Philippines, with sugar, salt and rice all sparking price turmoil in the past.

Crop failures, high costs, underinvestment in irrigation and machinery, lack of refrigeration, poor access from farms to markets, and typhoons that destroy crops have long affected Philippine agriculture.

Insect outbreaks and soaring oil and fertilizer prices since Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year have added to farmers' plight.

While the Philippine government has pledged to increase domestic food production, a growing population still relies heavily on imported food and tariffs have fueled inflation.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is serving as Agriculture Secretary to overhaul stagnant agriculture.

The agricultural population of the Philippines is close to 1/4, but only contributes 10% of the gross domestic product (GDP).

According to official data, each Filipino eats an average of 2.34 kilograms of onions a year. In theory, the Philippines can be self-sufficient in onion production.

However, onions that are afraid of rain in tropical climates can only be harvested once a year, and onion stocks are exhausted long before the next harvest.

Recently, the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) epidemic prevention measures were lifted, and people resumed celebrating the festival of enjoying food and Christmas, which further promoted the soaring demand for onions.

Former President Rodrigo Duterte's Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the current shortage could have been avoided if the current government had initiated imports as early as August last year.

"This is the result of poor planning," he told ABS-CBN, the Philippines' largest broadcaster.