ILOCOS NORTE — The spike of garlic retail prices in supermarkets and major trading centers despite sufficient supply is simple arithmetic.
“There must be an ‘artificial shortage’ perpetuated by the big time players of the garlic industry,” said Provincial Agriculturist Norma Lagmay who is also an economist by profession.
For the first time in the history of Ilocos Norte as the country’s top producer of garlic, consumers are currently buying Ilocos native garlic at an average price of P260 per kilogram or P300 in Metro Manila.
From the average farm gate price of P69.25 in 2013, retail price of garlic in Ilocos Norte has reached its record high at P139.55/kg last year.
As a classic example of the law of supply and demand, Lagmay said “the price of a commodity (garlic) increases when the demand is high.”
The garlic price hike came at a time when almost all garlic growers have nothing left to sell except for their personal consumption and for planting purposes.
“We are happy to know that garlic price is increasing but at the same time we sympathize with end-consumers buying too much expensive garlic and we have nothing left to spare,” said Wilfredo Valdez, president of the Vegetable Growers Association in Region 1 and a member of the National Garlic Action Team.
He said the price hike may also have been attributed to an intensified monitoring of smuggled garlic products from Taiwan.
Over the years, Ilocos Norte has maintained its status as the garlic capital of the Philippines producing about 905 metric tons (MT) sufficiency level in 2012 and more than 800MT in 2013.
Once branded as the Ilocos white gold, the P1-billion industry being a major cash crop in the country had its ups and downs between 2005 and 2013, when garlic production significantly decreased from 8,231.23MT to 5,435.76MT based on a report of the Bureau of Agriculture Statistics (BAS).
The decline was mainly due to insect pests and diseases afflicting garlic, climate change and low productivity which discourage several farmers and shifted to other alternative cash crops.
It was only in the last quarter of October last year that Ilocos farmers saw a ray of hope when the Department of Agriculture in partnership with various research agencies and the provincial government, step-up in revitalizing the garlic industry through sustainable seed support system.
As a result, the DA through Secretary Proceso Alcala has allotted P10 million for the purchase of quality bulbs, fertilizer subsidy, establishment of small-scale irrigation facilities and post-harvets facilities, research on varietal trials of promising varieties by the Mariano Marcos State University, crop insurance and provision of capital assistance of the Federated Garlic Association for garlic training and processing.
The inter-government agency convergence also link farmers with the Vegetable Importers, Exporters, and Vendors Association (VIEVA) of the Philippines to assist them in marketing their products.
With an increasing demand for this industrial crop known for its culinary and medicinal value, Ilocos Norte is set to increase its existing 2,130 hectares production area.
Experts said garlic grows best in the Ilocos soil due to its agro-climatic suitability.
This year, an increase of 136 hectares of garlic plantation was added, benefiting about 453 farmers in top garlic-producing municipalities of Pasuquin,Vintar, Sarrat, Burgos, San Nicolas, Paoay, Badoc, Bacarra, Pinili and Bangui including the cities of Batac and Laoag.
Earlier, the DA has convened the National Garlic Action Team to determine the cause of the price spike and come up with solutions. The action team is composed of representatives of the DA High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the academe, and the private sector.