Filipino expats in UAE fly home with bags of onions as prices hit $11/kg in Manila

Representational image: Image Courtesy: @PhilippineStar

New Delhi: With the onions priced at three times the price of chicken and about 25 per cent more expensive than beef in inflation-hit Philippines, expats in the UAE are doing what seems to be the most sensible thing to do: Pack the staple vegetable into a suitcase and bring it back home.

At a supermarket in Dubai, onions are priced for only Dh2 ($0.54) per kilogramme — a far cry from the retail prices back home where they are selling for as much as 600 pesos ($10.93) a kilogram.

Based on the retail prices of farm commodities tracked by the agriculture department as of 9 January, 2023, red onions were selling for as much as 600 pesos ($10.93) a kilogram in the Philippines, about three times the price of chicken and about 25 per cent more expensive than beef.

Filipinos who recently returned home for the holidays say that onions are the new chocolates. Now, presenting red onions to family and friends as presents is just as sentimental as giving them the nicest chocolate bars.

“It’s the best coming-home gift,” Khaleej Times quoted Dubai resident Jaze as saying.

Jaze, who travelled to Manila in December with 10 kg of onions in her luggage, said that her friends and relatives were grateful when she gifted them onions and garlic from Dubai.

“I told friends and relatives that I could give them only onions and garlic from Dubai as I wasn’t able to shop for other things. They were grateful for it! Considering the unbelievable prices of onions back home, they were very happy to get some for free,” the report quoted her as saying.

Admin officer in Dubai Dina Gacula Odo, who also brought home 4 kg onions, said Filipions carrying onions in their luggage back home has now become pretty common.

“While I was waiting for my flight at the boarding gate, many other Filipinos I flew with were talking about all the onions they had in their luggage. It’s now pretty common,” Dina, who travelled on 30 December, was quoted as saying by Khaleej Times.

According to the report, the expats didn’t have any issues with the Philippines’ customs authorities upon their arrival at the airport, but there were fears whether the fliers were allowed to carry the staple after officers confiscated it from one of the travellers.

Philippines to import onions

As the prices have skyrocketed, Philippines is now planning to import 22,000 tons of onions to boost domestic supply.

The import proposal was arrived at during a meeting of the agriculture department’s executive committee and will be recommended to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who is also the agriculture secretary, for approval, a Bloomberg report quoted department’s assistant secretary Rex Estoperez  as saying on Sunday.

The proposed purchase “will be good for a month and to pull down prices,” Estoperez was quoted as saying in the report. “We can’t sit idly because one of the drivers of inflation is the price of onions,” Estoperez added.

Estoperez said the purchase would be a “temporary solution” and there are no further plans to import for now.

Once approved, the agriculture department anticipates that the proposed imports will arrive no later than the first week of February.

Around 17,000 tonnes of onions are consumed every month in the country.

Estoperez said the half of the planned imports will be distributed in the main island of Luzon and the remaining will be shipped to Visayas and Mindanao.

With inputs from agencies

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