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Socio-Economic and Agro-Ecological Characterization of Onion Production Environment in Central Luzon

Onion is an important agricultural crop in Central Luzon and the challenge remains to find ways and means to further improve the onion industry. The general objective of this research was to establish benchmark information and assess the socio-economic and agro-ecological characteristics of onion production environment in Central Luzon. The study was conducted in Nueva Ecija being the largest onion producer in Region III involving 138 farmers from San Jose (50); Bongabon (50) and Munoz (38). Both primary and secondary data were used. The descriptive part of the study defined the socio-economic and agro-ecological environment. Cost and return analysis was used to determine profitability of onion production. Onion was generally cultivated after rice during the months of November to December and harvested in February to March. Results of the soil analyses taken from Palestina, San Jose City showed that the soil in the study area had low to medium fertility level; acidic with an average pH value of 5.43; low total nitrogen (0.12%); medium available P (46.85 ppm) and medium exchangeable K (53.94 ppm). The results conform to the farmers’ perception on the fertility status of their soils. The soil generally had good drainage, under lowland not flooded category. The occurrence of rainfall in the months of November and December in onion growing areas was disadvantageous in terms of off-season onion production particularly in San Jose since this coincided with the bulbing stage and harvesting period. The average amount of annual rainfall was 1940 mm. The air temperature was within the temperature range of the onion varieties planted in the areas considered. The onion growers have land to till, own basic implements for onion production and have adequate level of education and living condition, indications of reinforcing characteristics for growth and development. Their principal sources of information were fellow farmers (43%), sales agents/technicians (33%) and government technicians (22%). They were generally exposed to informal sources of credit which imposed higher interest rates. The onion farmers possessed skills and experience in production but continued to employ some practices that were not sustainable such as reliance on pesticides alone for pest and disease control and use of high levels of inorganic fertilizer. The farmer respondents cited excessive rain, high input cost, losses due to pest and diseases, lack of capital, and prevalence of weeds as the major production problems which had significant effects on yield and income of farmers. The marketing problems cited were low output price, control of prices by buyers and price instability, which can be attributed to seasonality, and the recent influx of cheap imports. Certainly there were critical issues and concerns that face the onion production environment such as declining fertility levels of most onion farms, reliance on chemicals and high levels of inorganic fertilizer use, continued exposure to informal sources of credit, high input cost and declining prices of onion. Efforts must be made towards ensuring that the interest of the onion growers and the industry in general be safeguarded particularly in an increasingly globalized world.


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