SEARCA, Jollibee Foundation team up to boost local onion production

University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB)-based Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and Jollibee Group Foundation (JGF) have teamed up to help boost the production of onion, one of the country’s high-value crops.

JGF Executive Director Ma. Gisela Tiongson said farmers need partners who can provide them with access to information and technology to help them improve their productivity, increase the value of their produce, and in the process, build their agro-enterprises.

“I believe SEARCA’s experience and expertise in education, training and research will provide an important dimension in deepening our understanding of the complex challenges facing our farmers,” Tiongson said.

On April 14, SEARCA was represented by its director Dr. Glenn Gregorio while JGF was represented by Tiongson in the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to formalize their cooperation, and also to improve local supply systems.

With this, SEARCA is set to implement the JGF-funded “Project SAYA or Strengthening Agricultural Yield of Allium cepa L. (Onion) in the Philippines” which will focus its analysis on yellow onion through SEARCA’s Emerging Innovation for Growth Department led by Dr. Rico Ancog, who is also UPLB associate professor.

Ancog noted that project SAYA intends to determine the present productivity and efficiency levels of local onion production.

“The technical efficiency of farmers reflects their ability to produce an optimum level of output using a given set of inputs and available technology. Measuring the efficiency of local onion producers may reveal information that is vital to improving the productivity of onion farms,” he explained.

A component of the project is to collect farm-level data in terms of environmental conditions, farm practices and innovations or technologies used to determine gaps and factors affecting onion production in the study sites.

“Based on the findings of the analyses, a set of recommendations will be developed to improve efficiency across the supply chain, reduce postharvest losses and increase yield,” Ancog said.

Meanwhile, Gregorio said the large demand for onion from large corporations and food establishments is being met by additional supply from imports.

With the 7.49 percent average growth in onion production from 2015 to 2019, he said the local supply meets only up to 70 percent of the country’s total requirements.

Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Gregorio said Central Luzon has the lion’s share of the total onion production at 62.5 percent with the Ilocos Region and Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) far behind at 17.48 percent and 15.78 percent, respectively.

He said in view of this, Ilocos Sur and Occidental Mindoro were selected as the Project SAYA sites.

He said in Ilocos Sur, the project team will work with the Tagudin Agroentrepreneurs Association and the Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University while in Mindoro, SEARCA will collaborate with the Lourdes Multipurpose Cooperative and Mindoro State College of Agriculture and Technology.

To intensify onion production, SAYA is also expected to provide recommendations at the farm level and farmer-groups level on the potential interventions and innovations.

“Investigating farm-level factors affecting the local production will provide empirical basis to formulate interventions to enhance productivity,” he said.