MANILA—With the very small cost of production of garlic, Senate committee on agriculture chairperson Sen. Cynthia Villar believes there is a price manipulation that resulted in the 900 percent jump in the prices of garlic.
“It is really a product of price manipulation,” Villar said in the Senate inquiry into the high prices of agricultural products specifically garlic on Thursday.
Bureau of Customs (BOC) deputy commissioner Agaton Teodoro Uvero confirmed Villar’s findings that the landed price of the imported garlic from China is only P17 per kilo including import duties but sold up to P300 per kilo in the market.
On the other hand, Villar said the cost of local production is only P40 per kilo but the current sale retail price is P180 per kilo.
“How can P17 and P40 go to P280 up to P300 per kilo? Why in heaven’s name allowed this too much profiteering. It’s very unreasonable price,” Villar said.
“I think I’m in the wrong business. I should transfer in the garlic industry,” Villar, whose family owns one of the country’s leading real estate companies, added.
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) undersecretary for consumer welfare and business regulation group Victorio Mario Dimagiba agreed that price manipulation was the culprit behind the 900 percent profit imposed by the garlic traders.
“We agreed to you madam senator that there is price manipulation,” Dimagiba said.
Dimagiba said the National Price Coordinating Council (NPCC) is now investigating the spike in the prices of garlic and other agricultural products upon order of President Benigno Aquino III.
“President Aquino has ordered us to immediately investigate and we already asked the assistance of the NBI (national bureau of investigation) and CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) on this matter,” Dimagiba said.
The DTI official said price manipulation is punishable by 15 years imprisonment and P2 million fine.
However, Villar said the penalty is too small compared to the billions of pesos being earned by the unscrupulous traders from overpriced garlic.
Department of Agriculture (DA) assistant secretary Leandro Gazmin ruled out that the shortage of supply was the cause of the spike in the prices of garlic.
“Although the price of garlic is high, there is still supply in the market,” Gazmin said.
Villar encouraged the government to boost the local garlic production which supplies only eight percent of the total demand in the market.
“We found out that garlic is very important and we should improve our local production. Our local garlic is better than the imported ones,” Villar said.
Villar urged the DA to immediately create Consumer Protection Group provided under Republic Act 10623 or Price Act of 2012 that will monitor in the prices of agricultural products.
Villar said the reasonable price of garlic should be P80 to P100 only, saying “beyond this amount is tantamount profiteering.”
“There should be SRP (sale retail price) in the agricultural products,” she said.
Villar also appealed to the National Garlic Action Team (NGAT) composed of garlic farmers cooperatives to watch their industry from unscrupulous traders.
Senator Grace Poe, during the Senate inquiry, encouraged the DTI and the DA to act fast and be more vigilant in monitoring and controlling the prices of basic commodities.
“There has to be more vigilance on your part. If you see that there is a jump of 900 percent, right away you should already call the attention of the DA, right away the DA should already call the attention of the cooperatives that sold their rights to the traders,” Poe told the resource persons from DTI and DA.