Until recently, onions were so expensive in the Philippines that even President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. got involved. He released smuggled goods from the evidence vaults for sale and imported the vegetables from abroad. The world's most expensive red onions are found in Manila's markets, one lawmaker complained. A kilo of onions cost as much as a kilo of beef: 14 euros a kilo.
The East Asian island republic already suffers from high national debt and corruption. The corona pandemic forced people into lockdown. Children could no longer go to school, instead many had to somehow try to earn money. Most Filipinos were busy surviving. In addition, storms ruined the harvest – inflation then struck in this situation.
"In August, consumers began to feel the price hikes," writes former Philippine MP and activist Mong Palatino. "Restaurants complained about the high prices, and memes of onions as luxury gifts and symbols of abundance made the rounds on social media." And just at Christmas families were forced to use the vegetables only sparingly. It is not uncommon for 20 or 30 family members to come and cook together on the islands for the holidays.
The onion crisis hit the country so badly that the government started selling subsidized onions through mobile kiosks. For the equivalent of 2.90 euros per kilo. However, each customer was only entitled to three kilos of the discounted leek plant. Prices only fell again when the country announced plans to import onions on a large scale in January. We are talking about 22,000 tons, which roughly corresponds to the amount that is grown in India alone.
But this step is also met with suspicion in the Philippines: Not only is the import two months late, it would also harm local farmers, since now is harvest time, according to the opposition.
The matter is still just one of many annoyances for President Marcos Jr., who was elected in May. The 65-year-old, known as "Bongbong", is the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. He ruled the country with an iron hand for twenty years until 1986. Marcos Jr. wants to clean up his father's legacy and rehabilitate his family.
Sources: Mong Palatino, Ministry of Agriculture of the Philippines, Fruchtportal.de, The Diplomat