“No toppings with onions. There are not enough onions for all restaurants. The signs are everywhere.”
Official records show that the cost of onions in the Philippines increased last month, reaching almost 700 pesos ($12.80; £10.40) per kg.
That is greater than the price of meat and the country’s daily minimum wage in Southeast Asia.
Despite recent price drops, onions remain a luxury for many customers, according to Rizalda Maunes, owner of a pizza in the heart of Cebu City.
“Every day, we used to purchase three to four kilograms of onions. Now that we can only afford to buy half a kilo, “The BBC was told by Ms. Maunes.
Because many meals are sweetened with onions, she continues, “our customers understand that it is not just restaurants that are struggling. Households are as well.”
The essential component of Filipino food has come to represent the rising cost of living.
It occurs at a time when the country’s tropical nation experienced its highest inflation rate in 14 years last month, which measures the growth in the cost of everything from food to fuel.
Rising food costs have been referred to as an “emergency scenario” by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who also serves as the agriculture secretary. In an effort to increase supply, Mr. Marcos authorized the import of red and yellow onions earlier this month.
According to experts, demand is being stimulated by the Philippines economy’s recovery, but the production of food, notably onions, has been negatively impacted by the hard weather.
“The Department of Agriculture had predicted a potential root crop deficit back in August. A few months later, the Philippines was struck by two severe storms that seriously harmed crops “ING Bank senior economist Nicholas Mapa makes this statement.
The demand has also drastically increased as the economy has begun to improve, according to Mr. Mapa.
Street food booths in Cebu, which are well-liked by locals and visitors, have also been affected by rising pricing.
Usually served with an onion and vinegar dipping sauce are fried vegetables, pork, and shellfish.
“Our meals frequently include onions. In order to balance out the saltiness of our cuisine, it adds a flavorful crunch and sweetness “In his stall, Alex Chua, who has reduced the number of onions, explains.
“We appreciate the steps being taken by the administration to halt price increases. We hope they continue to execute such policies in order to further reduce prices “A further comment is made by him.
Since onions are in such high demand, April Lyka Biorrey decided to carry a bouquet made of vegetables at her wedding in Iloilo City.
The bride told a local newspaper, “I asked my groom if we could use onions instead of flowers, as the flowers would wilt and wind up being thrown away after the wedding.”
“Why then not onions? It is useful in the sense that it might be used after the wedding, “She remarked.
Others who smuggled onions into the nation have run into difficulties.
Prior to this month, 10 Philippine Airlines crew members were under investigation for attempting to conceal approximately 40kg of fruits and onions in luggage bags.
Later, customs officials stated that they would not be prosecuted but issued a warning to travelers about the dangers of bringing produce without authorization.
The situation has put pressure on Mr. Marcos, who, as secretary of agriculture, had pledged to increase food production. His appointment as a replacement has been requested by several MPs.
Grace Poe, a senator from the Philippines, said during a hearing on the nation’s growing food prices, “Now it’s onions where once it was sugar. Everything in the kitchen will eventually be the subject of a hearing.”
The country’s food security is seriously threatened by climate change, according to Marie-Anne Lezoraine of the Kantar Worldpanel consultancy.
“The majority of consumers have limited purchasing power and can already afford only the necessities. A significant number of customers in the Philippines will suffer a great deal if climate change leads to shortages and rising costs “Invoking Ms. Lezoraine.
As the government imports more of the crop, Mr. Mapa thinks that the price of onions may stabilize.
However, he notes that the timing may be unfavorable because it falls during the month of February when local onions are harvested. “Prices may really fall sharply once both harvest and imports virtually simultaneously hit the market.”