How the Onion Became the Symbol of Inflation in the Philippines

The inflationary crisis in the Philippines is reflected in the unprecedented increase High price of onions, forcing the government of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to launch mobile stores, release contraband goods, and import from neighboring countries.

Consumers began to notice the rise in the price of onions in August last year. restaurants too She complained that suppliers had raised prices at least ten times. The price increase continued until December, when a kilogram of onions became more expensive than an equivalent amount of beef and chicken. even a legislator lament that the most expensive red onion in the world would be found in local markets.

The impact on ordinary Filipinos is so acute that it led families to prepare meals with a minimal amount of onion during the recent Christmas holidays. Funny memes depicting onion as a luxury gift and a symbol of wealth were widely shared on social media. The humor hides the suffering of poor families barely surviving amid rising prices for basic goods and the absence of a substantial increase in wages.

The tight supply is attributed to weather disturbances and the decision of local farmers to plant a different variety of onions. The government has also blamed “Unscrupulous merchants and hoarders for the unreasonable price of the onion.”

Marcos acknowledged how smuggling has undermined the economy and the government’s failure to dismantle the cartel.

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“To be brutally frank about it, we have a system but it’s not working. Smuggling here in this country is absolutely rampant. So I don’t care how many systems we have, they don’t work,” Marcos said in a speech in the presidential palace.

When prices rose in December, the government imposed a lower “suggested retail price” as launched rolling stores offering cheaper agricultural products in various parts of the country. Each buyer can only buy three kilograms of onions in these government subsidized shops.

To solve the supply problem, the authorities allowed the release of the confiscated contraband goods, although Marcos ordered a thorough inspection since some goods were found improper for human consumption.

But the president’s older sister, Senator Imee Marcos, said a government-mandated lower price would only invite ridicule since market prices have already skyrocketed four times. She remembered agricultural officials to use existing funds to “expedite harvest and direct purchase of locally grown onions for delivery to Metro Manila.”

Prices dropped slightly in January when the government announced the import of 22,000 metric tons of onions.

But opposition senator Risa Hontiveros said the decision to import would only hurt local farmers since it is already harvest season. “The import is being done late. Imports should have been cleared two months ago in time for the holidays. This mistake is inexcusable,” she said. saying in a sentence.

The government clarified that it only authorized one “calibrated import” to protect the welfare of farmers and consumers.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, a local farmers’ organization, warned that “only large importers and traders will benefit from this latest import. Farmers and especially consumers will be on the losing end.”

The Department of Agriculture is “burying alive national agriculture, especially small farmers and food producers,” he added.

He also proposed the construction of more cold storage facilities and the implementation of a subsidized “buy now, sell later” scheme in different provinces.

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Meanwhile, opposition congresswoman France Castro urged the government to “extend support and subsidies to Filipino farmers to increase their yields and reduce production costs” as many are still reeling from the pandemic-induced economic slowdown of the past three years.

Marcos is at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week. promoting the sovereign wealth fund, even if this has not yet been addressed by the Senate. It is his eighth trip abroad despite being in power for less than seven months. His critics will no doubt point to his frequent trips abroad and his government’s failure to reduce food and agricultural prices. He can’t blame his subordinates because he appointed himself agriculture secretary to prioritize food safety and other key issues affecting local farmers.

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