CITY OF SAN FERNANDO - The Department of Agriculture (DA) here said Sunday that it has been doing efforts to monitor and implement measures against possible smuggled onions entering into Central Luzon markets.

This came as fears of possible incursion of low-quality onions coming from China may enter into the local market as reports said that massive onion and vegetable smuggling occurred in the region,

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"We continue to dialogue with onion growers, traders, importers and institutional buyers to address their concerns regarding the welfare of the industry," Gatus told Sun.Star Pampanga.

Gatus said that monitoring groups now are working along with onion growers' groups and local government officials in the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Tarlac and other onion-growing areas, conduct monthly physical stock inventories and track prices of onion in the market to determine if there is incursion of smuggled onions, overproduction and if intervention measures are necessary to protect the welfare of local growers.

To open more markets for onion farmers and help pull down prices of the commodity, Gatus said the DA has helped link growers directly with institutional buyers through its Barangay Food Terminal (BFT) projects and "bagsakan" or drop-off centers.

Besides expanding market access for onion growers, the DA has also helped them tap rural credit facilities to set up cold storage facilities and procure refrigerated delivery vans.

The agency also continues to help onion growers reduce postharvest losses and wastages through the provision of transport facilities like tram lines and other postharvest equipment in different provinces of Central Luzon, Gatus said.

Research programs on genetic improvements, appropriate culture management and crop protection practices to help onion growers increase their yields and improve the quality of their produce are also being undertaken by the DA, he added. (Ian Ocampo Flora)