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Philippines halts onion imports and probes price manipulation

Christian Fernsby |
The Agriculture department on Friday announced a temporary halt to bulb onion imports pending a probe of alleged price manipulation.

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The Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) have been asked to investigate the reported closure of cold storage facilities in Nueva Ecija in a bid to force farmers to accept low prices.

The import suspension, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said, will “prevent the cartel from benefiting from their operations where they forced the drop in the buying price of local onions by leasing and closing cold storage facilities to onion farmers.”

Piñol claimed that “traders have started their manipulation of the market” given bumper harvests in Central Luzon, Mindoro and Iloilo.

Among the facilities being investigated are Rivson Coop Storage Inc., Argo Cold Storage Facility, Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magsisibuyas ng Nueva Ecija (Kasamne), all in Palayan City, and Titan Onion Cold Storage in Bongabon City.

Piñol claimed that some of the storage facilities were government-funded and turned over to farmer cooperatives, some of which “connive with big-time traders now.”

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