Bongabon, Nueva Ecija — Residents of the country’s onion-growing capital last week began making their annual Sibuyasan Festival in a subdued and apprehensive mood. The town’s farmers are facing the most difficult situation in their history. But two ladies – Mayor Amelia Gamilla and municipal agriculturist Lucena Ceña – are helping them not to lose heart. The two leaders headed the celebration and highlighted it with the graduation of 143 farmers from a training course that taught onion growers to reduce production costs and considerably increase yield by planting hybrid varieties to enable them to compete with legally and illegally brought-in onions.
“We have faced critical problems in the past,” the mayor told the graduates and other farmers gathered at the Bongabon Multi-purpose Hall, “but these were all caused by nature – typhoons, floods, pest infestations, and the like, and we were able to recover from them. But it’s entirely different this time because our problem at present, sad to say, is man-made.”
Just before the graduation program started, the hall had been abuzz with news that smuggled onions had come in via Dingalan port in neighboring Aurora province and, adding insult to injury, the illegal shipment had allegedly been deposited in a Nueva Ecija warehouse. Meanwhile, in Bongabon and other onion-producing towns, harvests are peaking. Consequently, onion farmgate price is at an all-time low.