By Stephanie Sevillano

BOUNTIFUL HARVEST. Onion farmers revel at their bountiful harvest of white onions in Barangay Sulbec, Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte on March 3, 2024. The Department of Agriculture said Friday (March 15) it will closely monitor the peak harvest for onions from March to April before making a recommendation for importation. (PNA photo by Leilanie G. Adriano)

MANILA – The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Friday assured of sustained stringent monitoring amid an armyworm infestation in some onion plantations in the country, and will closely monitor the peak harvest for onions from March to April.

Agriculture Assistant Secretary Arnel de Mesa issued the statement during the Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon public briefing in view of the request of the Philippines Chamber of Food and Agriculture Inc. (PCAFI) to import onions by May, as El Niño worsened the effects of infestation.

“At this time, siguro titingnan muna natin iyong kabuuan ng harvest season bago magkaroon ng rekomendasyon na pag-i-import sa ating Kalihim (maybe we should look on the overall harvest season first before having a recommendation for importation to our Secretary [Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr.]),” de Mesa said.

De Mesa said based on their latest monitoring, the affected area only accounts for about 18 hectares, lower than the increased area of onion plantation.

This year, the area planted with onion is about 10,338 hectares in Central Luzon alone.

Tumaas ito ng almost 40 percent from 7,000 [hectares] noong nakaraang taon, at base doon sa datos na na-submit sa amin, 17.8 hectares iyong totally damaged at (It increased by almost 40 percent compared to about 7,000 last year and based on the data submitted to us, 17.8 hectares are totally damaged and) about 2,400 [hectares] partially damaged with still chance of recovery,” de Mesa said.

Besides monitoring, he assured that DA will provide interventions to affected farmers as the situation progresses.

Iyong ating (Our) regional crop protection center ay patuloy na nakikipag-ugnayan sa ating magsisibuyas para siguraduhin na tulungan sila na hindi lumala ang epekto ng harabas (is continuously coordinating with our onion farmers to ensure that the effects of armyworm infestation will not worsen).”

De Mesa, meanwhile, reported a PHP20 drop in prices of red and white onions from its PHP100/kilogram price level last week.

As of March 14, the DA Bantay Presyo (price watch) said the prevailing price of local red onions is pegged at PHP60/kg to PHP120/kg, and PHP50/kg to PHP100/kg for local white onions. (PNA)