By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga
Following statements by Senator Cynthia Villar, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, that government officials and businessmen are involved in a cartel to control the supply of garlic, causing a spike in prices, Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) head, Atty. Japhet Masculino, said it is a possible scenario.
He explained, garlic does not rot easily and can be stored in warehouses for several weeks, which opens the possibility of hoarding.
However, when questioning why the majority of garlic is imported, the provincial official claimed there is currently an “oversupply” of imported garlic, which is lowering prices and making the crop unprofitable for local farmers.
Masculino said there is a lack of regulation on importations and the lower prices of garlic are forcing local farmers to spend more than what they are earning from selling their crops.
Meanwhile, Villar expressed her dismay at the Bureau of Plant Industry, a division of the Department of Agriculture, for issuing import permits to traders who do not bring in the necessary volume of garlic for the country.
“Penalize traders who ask for import permits but do not import garlic,” she asserted. “They should realize we are relying on imports.”/WDJ