When we visited Reynaldo “Amang” Ramos in his onion farm on February 5, 2011 in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija, he was the happiest onion farmer we had met in our long years of covering agriculture. Most of the time, we had met farmers who were losing in their onion farming due to low prices, pest and disease damage, too much rain and so on. But not Amang who had sold his best ever harvest from 8,000 square meters for a total of P1,290,000.
Well, he had sold his onion harvest for P95 to P120 per kilo of freshly harvested bulbs. In his many years of planting onion, Amang who was 43 at the time we interviewed him, the usual price he got for his harvest was P10 to P25 per kilo.
He planted his crop in early October 2010 on 8,000 square meters that he rented for P5,000. He made his first harvest on January 20, 2011 consisting of 6,000 kilos which he sold for P95 per kilo, thus grossing P570,000. On February 5, he made his second and last harvest of another 6,000 kilos that the sold for P120 per kilo, for a gross of P720,000. That’s a total of P1,290,000.
Amang mentioned two main reasons why onion price skyrocketed in early 2011. One was that onion from China, whether legally imported or smuggled, was curtailed. No import permits were issued by the Bureau of Plant Industry.
The other reason was that there was very little local harvest in January and February. Many other farmers in Nueva Ecija planted their onion crop at the same time that Amang did, but their plants were severely damaged by the rains. Amang was lucky because he was one of the few who planted the new Super Pinoy variety developed by East-West Seed.
Super Pinoy is an improvement of Red Pinoy which was a long time favorite of onion growers. Super Pinoy has bigger bulbs than Red Pinoy so it has a higher yield. An important trait of Super Pinoy is that it can tolerate wet weather better than other varieties so that it can be planted in both off-season and during the regular season. As a result it could fetch a high price since there is very little competition, especially if there are no cheap imports in the market.
Amang who finished high school has always been a farmer. Starting to farm on his own in 1996, he first planted onion on a 7,000 square meter lot that his father gave him and a half-hectare land that he rented. At that time, the price per kilo was P23. Easily, he made a net income of P110,000 from that initial planting which enabled him to buy a service jeep.
His most memorable crop, however, was the one that he harvested in January and February 2011 where he grossed P1,290,000 and spending only about P90,000 for seeds, fertilizer, insecticide, irrigation, weeding, labor and rent of the land. In that memorable crop, he netted P1.2 million in a growing period of about 120 days.
Amang and his wife Esmeralda have two kids, a girl and a boy nicknamed Day and Doy.- ZAC B. SARIAN, Memoirs of an Agri Journalist.