PHL to suffer white onion, garlic shortage

THE Philippines is projected to suffer this year a shortage of key ingredients in making Filipino dishes, such as white onion and garlic, as total supplies, even with imports, are insufficient to meet overall demand for the commodities.

In a presentation before lawmakers, agriculture officials presented the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) outlook on the country’s onion and garlic supply and demand situation for this year.

The DA’s presentation showed that the Philippines would suffer a 16-day shortage of garlic by the end of the year as total supply, including imports, is projected to have a shortfall of about 63,850 metric tons (MT).

The DA projected that total supply of garlic this year would be at nearly 83,000 MT compared to the total estimated demand of at least 146,850 MT.

“We are not sufficient in garlic. We are really dependent on importation,” Agriculture Undersecretary-designate and Spokesperson Kristine Y. Evangelista told lawmakers on Tuesday.

The country’s garlic self-sufficiency ratio (SSR) in 2020 plunged to a record low of 7.1 percent. The SSR refers to the amount of total demand of a commodity that is supplied by local production.

The DA also projected that the country’s onion supply this year would be more than enough to meet total demand.

The DA estimated that total supply, including imported volume, would be at 343,427 MT, more than enough to meet 288,344 MT total demand.

The country will end the year with an ending stock of 26,828 MT of onion, sufficient to last for 37 days.

The DA, however, pointed out that the onion supply outlook includes all types of onion such as red and white.

Agriculture officials confirmed during the House Committee on Agriculture and Food hearing that the country is suffering from a shortage of white onions.

Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) Assistant Director Ariel J. Bayot said the country’s combined white onion supply of locally-produced and imported volume would only last for about 8 to 9 months from January.

Bayot explained that the imported white onions in January lasted for 5 months while local

harvest last March and April was estimated to last for only 3 to 4 months.

“That is why at this time yellow onion supply is zero or scarce,” Bayot told lawmakers.

Evangelista said the DA has decided not to issue import permits for another round of white onion importation to prevent farm-gate prices from being depressed. Evangelista explained that they are persuading industrial users, such as restaurants, to use red onions instead of white onions as a solution to the current supply woes.

“We have to import white onions but our direction right now is to convince institutional buyers to buy red onions,” she said.

The country’s onion SSR in 2020 was only at 72.4 percent, based on historical Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data.