Farmers’ group blames garlic crisis on ‘media hype’

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AN organization of provincial garlic farmers and traders is blaming the “media hype” on big-time “smugglers and illegal traders” to cause the current supply situation of the commodity.

The National Garlic Action Team (NGAT)—in a letter to Rep. Agapito Guanlao of Butil Party-list, chairman of the House committee on food security—denied reports there is a shortage of garlic nor are reports true that garlic price shot up to as much as P400 per kilo since they are selling “locally harvested garlic direct to retailers at P100, P130, P150, P180 and P200 per kilo, depending on the size.” The group also said there is adequate supply of garlic in the country.

The NGAT—a multisectoral consultative group involved in the garlic industry that includes farmers’ cooperatives, processors, traders, vendors and academe—also denied engaging in smuggling or hoarding as claimed by their big-time trading counterparts.

“It is evident that the media hype on the artificial shortage and the earlier issue on the import-permit monopolization is the handiwork of smugglers and illegal traders who, by publicly pinning the blame on local producers, intend to ease out farmers’ cooperatives and associations from their 60-percent share in the country’s garlic importation business,” NGAT farmers told the committee.

The House committee on food security is currently investigating the supply of garlic in the country.

The letter was signed by NGAT farming cooperative representatives from the Onion Garlic Farmers of Ilocos Norte, Magtatumana ng Santa Rosa, Ilocos Multipurpose Cooperative, Kooperatiba ng Bayang Sagana, Mindoro Allium Growers, Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magsisibuyas ng Nueva Ecija, National Onion Growers Cooperative Marketing Association, and Union of Growers and Traders of Onion.

The group was formed in support of the government efforts to push the production of the garlic industry.

Various agencies under the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Bureau of Customs and the Department of the Interior and Local Government are also involved in NGAT.

The group pointed out that the current situation is the result of the “privilege [granted] to private businessmen and traders to import garlic for more than two decades.”

The farmers also said this practice brought the domestic garlic business to the ground because the traders were reportedly buying locally grown garlic at “ridiculously low prices” that farmers in Itbayat, Batanes, were “dumping their products” into the waters “just to retrieve the knit bags which became more valuable than their content.”

The group pointed out that the decision of the DA to give garlic farmers a 60-percent share in the importation of the commodity helped garlic farmers and cooperatives gain some form of “government support and subsidy” that enabled them to return to profitability.

The NGAT said garlic cooperatives and farmers are now working to raise the country’s “garlic output to commensurate 80 percent of the national demand.”

The group also denied reports that they were engaging in smuggling, adding that “as small-time importers, we get garlic supply in consignment basis and must dispose of [the stock] to regain capital within 30 days after its arrival.”

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Jovee Marie de la Cruz

Jovee Marie Dela Cruz is working as a reporter in the country's leading business newspaper the BusinessMirror since 2013.
Ms. Dela Cruz, who is in the media industry for 8 years, is currently covering the House of Representatives.
She graduated from Universidad De Manila with a degree of Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 2008.
At present, Ms. Dela Cruz is finishing up her master's degree in communication at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP).
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