A GROUP composed mainly of garlic growers has appealed to domestic consumers to use locally produced garlic to prevent smugglers and cartels from controlling the Philippine allium market.
George Calaycay, head of the Onion-Garlic Farmers of Ilocos Norte (OGFIN) and acting spokesman for the National Garlic Action Team (NGAT), also cautioned lawmakers and government regulators against “falling into the scheme of big-time smugglers and cartels who want the blame on the scarcity and high prices of garlic pinned on local farmers.”
“Big-time smugglers and cartels are working to put small garlic growers out of business so the country will go back to relying on imported garlic that they smuggle, hoard and sell at very high prices in the market,” Calaycay said, adding that “[they] don’t care about the local garlic industry because they simply import and sell garlic.”
The NGAT spokesman also denied reports that the group’s member-cooperatives are behind the smuggling, hoarding and scarcity of garlic.
“If senators and congressmen are serious in ending smuggling, hoarding and price manipulation of garlic, then they should help strengthen the garlic industry by asking people to buy our native bawang which tastes as good as the imported ones,” according to Calaycay, as he explained that buying the local variety—coupled with government protection against unscrupulous traders—would be the best way to fight smuggling.
In a separate statement, Paul Jonathan Manalo, president of the NGAT-member Ilocos Multi-Purpose Cooperative, said the Department of Agriculture’s decision to give garlic growing cooperatives 60 percent of the garlic-import allocation is “great help” to the struggling Filipino farmers.
“That crucial decision helped save the garlic industry from total collapse. But that decision also made us and [Agriculture Secretary Proceso J.] Alcala the target of attacks by garlic traders and smuggling cartels who want to regain the total control of garlic importation that brought down the garlic industry,” Manalo said.