Onions more expensive than meat leads to smuggling in Philippines

A Filipino worker rides an overloaded tricycle carrying bags of onions. Credit: AP

The price of staple meats in the UK has soared in recent months, but in Philippines, the opposite is true after storms and crop-eating insects led to the price of onions skyrocketing.

Red and white onions now cost more than double the price of chicken and 30% more than beef.

A kilo of red onions costs as much as 700 pesos (£10.50) compared to 120 pesos (£1.80) four months ago.

The shortage is being blamed on a difficult year for Filipino onion farmers who were beset by typhoons, a global increase in the price of fertiliser and an infestation of crop-destroying armyworms.

Food inflation in the Philippines is in double didgets. Credit: AP

According to CNN, the increase in the price of onions has led to a rise in smuggling.

More than half a million pounds worth of onions hidden inside clothing shipments and pastry boxes were seized by Filipino officials in the last week of December.

The sharp rise in the price of the basic crop is leading to fears it could spark a surge in inflation.

Philippine consumer prices soared to 8.1% in December from a year earlier, the highest since 2008, largely driven by double-digit food inflation."We don’t really have (enough) supply of onions," Mercedita Sombilla, undersecretary for planning at the Department of Agriculture said.

The president has already approved an unusual import of 22,000 tonnes of onions and is considering buying more.

The country is usually able to meet demand with domestic crops.

The monthly domestic demand for onions is about 22,000 tonnes and around 20,000 are expected to be harvested in January.

The government is hoping the crisis will be eased during the peak of the harvest in February.

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