Ecija farmers, execs press for abolition of onion body

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    BONGABON, Nueva Ecija – Farmers and local officials here have pressed for the abolition of National Onion Action Team (NOAT), a special body created by the Department of Agriculture (DA) supposedly to protect onion growers amid issues of unabated smuggling and over importation, upon learning that recent importation of bulbs were made by its own members.

    NOAT supposedly conducts assessment on the onion stock position and recommend to the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) the volume of allowable import in a certain period of time.

    But provincial administrator Alejandro Abesamis noted an apparent conflict of interest during the recent farmers’ forum here among some members of NOAT who also engaged in the business of importing onions, including the Kapisanaman ng Samahan ng mga Magsisibuyas sa Nueva Ecija (Kasamne) and the Bagong Sigla Credit Cooperative (BSCC).

    Mayor Allan Gamilla said Kasamne got 30 permits to import yellow granex while BSCC had 76. The mayor also expressed dismay hat two farmers’ cooperatives, namely BSCC and the Magsasaka ng Barangay Vega Producer Cooperative (MBVPC) have engaged in onion importation.

    The local government has been constantly monitoring the onion situation throughout the municipality even without going to personal inspection of cold storage here and nearby areas, the mayor stressed.

    Alejandro also lamented that Gov. Aurelio Umali fought for the inclusion of local agriculture officials during series of for a more than a year to to make sure the province’s onion growers were properly represented.

    Such effort, he said, resulted in the inclusion of provincial agriculturist Serafin Santos and municipal agriculturist Lucena Ceña of this town, among others. Santos and Ceña have never been invited for a meeting since, Abesamis said.

    While Abesamis merely questioned the propriety of NOAT members making importation, a town official joined farmers in pressing for its abolition.

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