Pinol bans 43 garlic importers, admits cartel exists

MANILA — In view of the rising garlic prices in the market, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Pinol on Wednesday announced he has banned some 43 “traditional” importers who have applied for import permits but failed to utilize it.

There are currently 154 importers of garlic in the country.

Pinol lamented these 43 traders were granted permits to import around 70,100 metric tons (MT) of garlic this year but they only brought 19,252 MT into the country.

He also stressed that no DA official was involved in the cartel.

Manipulating the supply to junk up prices of commodities, Pinol said, is a sign of cartel as these importers failed to fill up the needed supply in the market.

The DA chief admitted there is a need for the development of the garlic sector for the country to be self sufficient.

At present, the Philippines produce around 7,469 MT garlic planted to 2,646 hectares all over the country. The current production is equivalent to 7-percent of the 130,000 MT total requirement for the country to be self sufficient.

“The growth of Philippine agriculture over the years has been stunted by cartels who controlled the importation of basic commodities like rice, garlic, onion, meat and dairy products and corruption in government. Fighting the cartels will not be an easy task but we will have to do it now, especially since the DA leadership is backed by President Rody Duterte who has vowed to address corruption in government,” said Pinol in a press conference.

Alongside the campaign against the cartels, Pinol said, the DA will now focus on the neglected sectors such as garlic and onion “whose growth were stunted through the years.”

“Garlic and onion production will now be intensified by the Department in non-traditional production areas so be able to fill up at least 80 percent of the national requirements,” he said.

As such, Pinol said he will set up pilot areas in Mindanao for the development of garlic and onion.

“We have always been made to believe that garlic could only be grown to a few areas of the country, mainly the hot areas like Central Luzon, Northern Luzon and Mindoro. I would like to break this myth by planting garlic in some parts of Mindanao,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pinol said he will issue an Administrative Order that issuance of import permits should only be done with the Office of the DA Secretary.

This time, he said he will be very strict in scrutinizing each applicant before an importation permit is granted.