Saturday, November 1, 2014

Hold summit on ASEAN econ integration to cushion impact on onion farmers, DA urged

BONGABON, Nueva Ecija – Mayor Allan Xystus Gamilla has urged the Department of Agriculture to call a summit on the forthcoming integration of the member-economies of  the Association of Southeast Asian Nations amid what he termed was the apparent lack of prior strategic planning of the DA with regards to the integration’s effects on the competitiveness of the country’s onion farmers, particularly in this town, the country’s onion capital.

          Gamilla said the DA should draw up a comprehensive road map to make onion farmers competitive amid the expected entry of imported onions with the economic integration in 2015.

          “As of now, the DA has no clear plan to prepare our onion farmers for the coming integration. That’s why I think we need to hold a summit and discuss how onion farmers could cope with  the coming integration,” he said. 

          Gamilla said Bongabon remains as the country’s top producer of onions yet local farmers’ fear being unable to compete with their counterparts from other member economies. “We might be placed at a disadvantage unless there are interventions in place. Maybe, the government should consider subsidizing us,” he said.

          He said onion farmers spend P150,000 per hectare as production cost for red creole and P200,000 for yellow granex.

          There are an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 onion farmers in this town which produces roughly 60 percent of the country’s onions. However, farmers suffer from low income due to the entry of imported onions believed being smuggled into the country.

          As stipulated in the ASEAN economic community blueprint, free trade paves the way for the establishment of a single market and production base among countries in the region namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

This means that there will be a free flow of goods, including rice, onions,  services, investment, capital and skilled labor to these countries. The goal is to create a highly competitive single market that would boast of an equitable economic development.

Under the ASEAN free trade regime, imported products will become cheaper which poses a real challenge to Filipino farmers.

Gamilla said the municipal government has not been remiss in undertaking steps to help local onion farmers cope with integration. He said they have been going to the barangays showing to the farmers modules for ideal planting of alternative products.

He added that the municipal government also provided P7 million worth of seeds to onion farmers under the grassroots participatory budgeting process.

Earlier, DA Secretary Proceso Alcala said they have come up with their own road map to prepare the agribusiness sector for the Asean Economic Community, adding they plan to invest heavily on farm mechanization, irrigation and financing to strengthen the farmers’ capacity to compete in the Asean region.
However, Alcala was viewed to be referring only to rice farmers as there was no mention of how DA intends to prepare other sectors, such as those engaged in the onion industry. (Manny Galvez)

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