The Philippines is planning to import tons of onions to prevent another “absurd increase” in prices, which soared earlier this year on tight supply and made the kitchen staple briefly costlier than chicken and beef.

Import licenses will be issued to private firms to bring in 21,000 tons of onions before the end of the year, according to a statement from the Bureau of Plant Industry on Friday. The measure is to guarantee ample supply amid an expected increase in demand over the holiday period, the department said.

The import plan is to assure the public that “the absurd increase in price would not be repeated,” the agency said.

The Philippines was forced to import onions earlier this year after prices surged due to a shortage that began in late 2022, with some lawmakers blaming the increase on hoarding and price manipulation by traders. The Southeast Asian nation consumes about 17,000 tons a month.

Licenses will be issued to bring in 17,000 tons of red onion and 4,000 tons of the yellow variety from China, India and the Netherlands, according to the agriculture agency. The volume will serve as buffer to stabilize domestic prices before the peak harvest season in March and April, it added.