The country's Onion farmers who have long been complaining against the flooding of imports and lack of government attention to their plight will finally have their dreams realised.
On April 5, shortly before President Rody Duterte visited Talavera, Nueva Ecija for a Rice Harvest Festival, I visited the town of Bongabon, the acknowledged Onion capital of the Philippines to join their own harvest festival.
What I saw immediately gave me an idea on why local Onions lose out to the imported ones in the market.
Not only are the local Onions smaller and poorer in quality, the volume of production was obviously not in the level of the production of onion farmers in major producing countries like India and China.
In India, for example, by using new technology including drip irrigation, Onion farmers harvest as much as 20 metric tons per hectare.
In the Philippines, the average yield per hectare is only 12.5-metric tons.
I also noticed the lack of farm machineries and equipment and the local Onion farmers were even surprised when I suggested that they should start implementing deep plowing and more efficient pulverisation of their soil.
During the farm visit, I pointed out to Bongabon Mayor Ricardo Padilla and DAF Region III Director Roy Abaya a farm waste which I believe could give farmers additional income with proper research and processing - the Onion leaves.
I instructed Director Abaya to gather the Onion leaves which are just thrown away as garbage and even costs the municipality money to dispose of and submit this to the Bureau of Agriculture Research to study if it could be dehydrated and used in Arroz Caldo, Mami and as spice in Oriental dishes.
Visiting the cold storage facility owned by the family of Mayor Padilla, I was briefed by the Mayor and Congresswoman Rhea Vergara that the Onion farmers sorely lack cold storage facilities.
At the end of my visit, I committed to the local farmers that an Onion Research Laboratory will be established in Bongabon and that additional cold storage facilities will be built in the different Onion production areas of the province.
A model farm using new technology, including the use of shallots instead of seeds and drip irrigation through solar power generation, is expected to be established in Bongabon this year.
Before I left, I also announced that Bongabon has been chosen as one of the two pilot areas for the implementation of the Easy Access Financing Program of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to provide farmers with sufficient capital to improve their production.
#Changeishere! #PresRodyCares! #DuterteDelivers!
(Photos of Onion farms, farmers and cold storage facilities in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija taken by DA-AFID and Mayette Tudlas.)