IN support of the vegetable farmers in the Municipality of Alabel, the Local Government Unit of Alabel, through its Office of the Municipal Agriculturist (OMAg), conducted a Bulb Onion Harvest Festival on December 22, 2023, in Barangay Baluntay.
This event was an integral part of the High-Value Crop Development Program, an initiative by the local government facilitated by OMAg Alabel. The Alabel Vegetable Producers Association (AVPA) was the primary beneficiary of this project, which was conceived last September to tackle the high prices and low supply of bulb onions in the market.
An 800-square-meter area within the three-hectare land of AVPA President Marlon Cloa serves as the demonstration farm for the farmers’ group. OMAg Alabel extends its support to AVPA by providing farm inputs and technical assistance. The primary market for AVPA’s farm produce is the Alabel Food Hub, where locals can purchase locally grown farm products from various barangays in the municipality.
“In our subsequent planting of bulb onions, we aim to refine our process and improve upon the shortcomings of our initial planting. We also aspire to secure Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification from the Department of Agriculture to ensure the quality and sustainability of our farm produce,” said Cloa.
The Municipality of Alabel is striving to achieve food security and create additional income opportunities for local farmers. During the event, OMAg Alabel Head Giselle Gestupa urged the farmers to prioritize environmental conservation alongside their income generation.
“This project will provide additional income for our local farmers and will soon address the food insecurity issue in our town. We hope to offer accessible, nutritious, and affordable agricultural products without over-reliance on importation. We also hope that our farmers will take care of the environment.”
Engr. Agnes Du, the Acting Head of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPAg), expressed her appreciation for the support that the LGU Alabel has extended to local farmers.
She shared her vision of Alabel becoming the leading producer of red bulb onions, not just in Sarangani Province but potentially in the entire region. She urged the farmers to explore the cultivation of high-value crops due to their substantial market potential. Furthermore, she assured that OPAg is committed to providing necessary farm inputs and addressing other needs of the farmers.
Mayor Vic Paul Salarda graced the event and encouraged the farmers to persist in their commendable initiatives for community betterment. He emphasized to the members of AVPA the benefits of becoming a cooperative, highlighting opportunities such as agricultural loans from the Land Bank of the Philippines and relevant assistance from other government agencies.
In addition to providing agricultural training to enhance farm productivity, Mayor Salarda also emphasized the importance of financial management education for farmers. This knowledge would equip them with the necessary skills to accurately track their income and savings, thereby fostering financial stability and growth.
Onions are a fundamental ingredient in the local cuisine of the Philippines, frequently used alongside garlic in a variety of dishes. According to the Department of Agriculture (DA), the nation’s monthly consumption of this vegetable averages approximately 17,000 metric tons.
Nueva Ecija holds the distinction of being recognized as the “Onion Capital of the Philippines.”
However, the province grapples with a myriad of challenges, notably the escalating costs of agricultural inputs and a concerning reduction in the number of onion farms.
Early this year, the price of red and white onions in the Philippines skyrocketed to an unprecedented 600 pesos per kilogram, as per the data monitored by DA in the Manila region.
This surge in price positioned onions as a luxury, costing about three times more than chicken and exceeding the price of pork or beef by 25% to 50%, based on the same market monitoring estimates. Astonishingly, the cost of a single kilogram of onions surpassed the minimum daily wage in the Philippines.
The Philippine government attributed this abrupt escalation in onion prices to a confluence of factors, including inflation, the smuggling of onions, and the conflict in Ukraine.
Under the initiative of Mayor Salarda’s “Serbisyong Smile”, the local government is persistently exploring strategies to assist local farmers in addressing their issues. LGU Alabel, in collaboration with OMAg, is promoting synergy among various sectors and agencies to accomplish its agricultural objectives. This collaborative approach underscores their commitment to fostering a thriving agricultural community.