by Madelaine Miraflor
The amount of garlic being sold in the local market may further decline after Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol banned 43 importers for failing to purchase enough volume of garlic to stabilize the domestic price of the said commodity.
This ban will be included in the Administrative Order (AO) that Piñol is set to issue.
The AO will also restrict the issuance of import permits, which can now only be obtained from the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA).
Based on data cited by Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) Assistant Director Jenny Remoquillo, the country’s annual demand for garlic stands at 130,000 metric tons (MT).
As of now, only 7,468 MT of garlic is being produced locally based on last year’s data, while the country imports around 57,000 MT based on existing import permits.
Despite the shortfall, Piñol still proceeded to ban 43 individuals and companies who are supposed to import as much as 70,100 MT of garlic but have only so far bought 19,000 MT.
“We will issue the order today banning them. The problem is they don’t want to import because the prices are high but real businessmen don’t think that way,” Piñol said.
“Are there cartels? Yes. Are people from DA involved? No and I am sure of that,” he added.
Because of the ban, the country is left with 111 garlic importers who are supposed to cater to the growing domestic demand.
“We will invite new players,” Piñol said, addressing the concern.
“We have to produce more. At least 50 percent of the demand can be locally produced. But as of now, we don’t have enough volume to fight the price manipulation among importers,” he added.
Jayson Cainglet, executive director ng Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG), said in a phone interview that delaying importation based on the world prices is a reasonable attitude for importers as long as their permits are valid.
He also said that he is worried that such a ban would also drag legitimate importers into the issue.
“This move (to eradicate) cartels in the garlic industry is something that DA should have done last year to have a clean start as a fulfillment to the anti-corruption campaign and anti-smuggling campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte,” Cainglet further said.
Over the next six years, the DA wants the country to be able to supply 50 percent of the garlic and 80 percent of the onion domestic demand.
According to Piñol, the country needs to plant garlic to an additional 29,000 hectares in order to achieve this.
This led him to propose the allotment of a P200-million budget next year for the development of garlic and onion production alone. The amount will be taken from the DA’s 2018 budget.
“This involves the support for traditional production areas of Onion and Garlic Production and the development of new production areas in other parts of the country,” Piñol said.
“This will include the introduction of modern technology in Garlic and Onion farming to allow farmers to plant more than once during the year,” he added.
All Garlic and Onion farmers will also be given access to the Production Loan Easy Access (PLEA) Program of ACPC which offers a maximum of P25,000 per farming household without any collateral and a six percent interest annually.
Additional cold storage facilities will also be established in the traditional production areas, including Nueva Ecija, Nueva Viscaya, Ilocos and Mindoro.
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