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The Department of Agriculture (DA) said Tuesday it will launch the Optimization and Resiliency In the Onion Industry Network (ORION) program to boost domestic production and support to local farmers.

In a statement, the DA said the ORION program is needed to respond to the previous onion supply challenges faced, which spilled effects on skyrocketing retail prices.

“ORION seeks to promote a competitive, resilient, and profitable onion industry providing high quality, safe, affordable, and sustainable supply of onion to meet increasing domestic demand,” the DA said during its meeting with various stakeholders.

The ORION program shall aid farmers by providing more accessible loans, alongside the integration of innovative farming strategies.

“Among the strategies and programs that will be carried out is providing easy access credit loans, which may be used for the purchase of equipment and establishment of facilities. Farmer clusters and associations will also be organized for production and market integration,” it said.

“Also under ORION, innovative farming technologies will be pushed as well as value-adding processes to maximize production and income,” it added.

To ensure efficiency in supply and marketing monitoring, the DA will also include the creation of a centralized database that is expected to keep track of the updated onion data nationwide.

“The department will continue to carry out an intensified distribution scheme for production and marketing support, to allow the sector to grow and profit,” the DA said.

Besides these, coordination with the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) local price coordinating council will also play its role in monitoring market prices.

Losses in local production shall also be addressed through ORION given that the country has lost around 100,000 metric tons of onion last year due to a lack of cold storage facilities.

“During its implementation, it will improve productivity and efficiency of onion plantations thru PhilGAP certification, reduce pre- and post-harvest losses, improve product distribution and logistics, and ensure sustainable supply in the local market,” the DA said.

The department earlier disclosed its plan of building around six cold storages in four onion-producing regions starting this year.

These facilities are expected to rise in areas in Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon and MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) regions.

Each facility is expected to cost PHP40 million, with a capacity that can accommodate up to 20,000 bags. (PNA)