Garlic cartel caused supply shortage to jack up market price - Agriculture Secretary

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 12) — Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol on Wednesday said a cartel caused the spike in garlic prices in the past months.

He then announced he is blacklisting 43 companies, which only imported a small amount of garlic or none at all, despite being issued a permit allowing them to import in large quantities.

"We would not allow them to import [garlic] anymore because at a time we needed them to import, they did not import. This is the first indication na may cartel," Piñol said during a media briefing.

He added this practice led to a shortage in supply, causing a price increase.

This follows a Senate hearing on Monday where Committee on Food and Agriculture chair Cynthia Villar slammed Bureau of Plant Industry director Vivencio Mamaril on why garlic price in the market reaches P200 per kilo, when the landed cost of imported garlic is only P17.

A similar shortage of garlic was seen in 2014 that also resulted in higher prices.

The Agriculture Department reports that only 7 percent of total garlic consumption is produced by local farmers. The rest is imported.

In the first half of 2017, only 19,000 of the 70,000 metric tons of garlic that was supposed to be imported arrived in the Philippines.

Piñol said he will issue an order that will give him full control in issuing import permits for garlic, onion, and meat.

The Agriculture Department said the best way to fight the garlic cartel is to raise local production to up to 50 percent of total consumption.

To do this, they are planning to provide loans to garlic farmers, buy cold storage facilities, and look for areas to grow more garlic.