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Here’s why Filipino expats are flying home with suitcases full of onions

via Couleur

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    Filipino expats who visited the Philippines from the Middle East during the recent holiday season replaced traditional pasalubong (homecoming gifts) of chocolate and luxury goods with bags of onions.

    The prices of onions have soared in recent months in the inflation-hit Southeast Asian nation. Onions can now reportedly cost up to 25 percent to 50 percent more than beef and pork, and cost about three times the price of chicken.

    A kilogram (approximately 2.20 pounds) of onions, which can be purchased in Dubai supermarkets for only 2 dirhams (approximately $0.54), can reach as much as 600 Philippine pesos (approximately $11) in local markets, according to reports. This is even higher than the Philippines’ minimum daily wage.

    Jaze, a Filipino woman working in Dubai, packed 10 kilograms (approximately 22 pounds) of onions in her suitcase as a homecoming gift for her loved ones. 

    “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,” Jaze, who traveled to Manila last month, told the Khaleej Times. “They were grateful for it! Considering the unbelievable prices of onions back home, they were very happy to get some for free.”

    Last month, Dina Gacula Odo, who also works in Dubai, brought 4 kilograms (approximately 8.8 pounds) of onions with her when she traveled to the Philippines. According to Odo, the onion has become a common item in the suitcases of Filipinos flying home.

    “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,” Odo said.


    Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who is also the secretary of the Philippines’ Department of Agriculture (DA), has revealed a plan to import 21,060 metric tons of onions to boost domestic supply. 

    As the country reportedly consumes around 17,000 tons of onions per month, officials declared that this is but a temporary solution.

    The plan was also criticized by a Philippine senator, who noted that it would cause negative effects on the livelihoods of local farmers.

    “It looks like we allowed the hoarders, the illegal importers and the price fixers to profit from the peak season of Christmas,” Philippine Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel was quoted as saying.

    He instead urged the DA to go after the hoarders and price fixers to stop them from manipulating agricultural product prices.

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