Garlic industry ails due to smuggling, inferior seedlings, etc.

BATAC CITY, Nov. 20 – Growers of Ilocandia’s garlic crops used to be called “white gold” have lamented that rampant smuggling and shrinking seedling materials contributed to the ailing garlic industry in Northern Luzon.

(Garlic crop was described as “white gold” in the 1970s-1990s when it became the big source of income by farmers in Ilocos provinces as it commanded high prices in local and foreign markets–Ed)

Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos aired these concerns in behalf of garlic farmers in a recent consultation dialogue with Senators Cynthia Villar and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala held at the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) in this city.

Governor Marcos also noted the lack of research and development for garlic production, lack of investment to infrastructure and the effects of climate change affecting the crop’s planting season.

She asked the DA to look into the alleged irregularity in the distribution of garlic planting materials noting that even reject garlic varieties which are allegedly smaller in size are given to farmers.

She added investment in watershed and irrigation is necessary to provide sufficient water for the growing crops and bring maximum yield.

“Our crops are severely affected by climate change. However, I am also requesting the DA to help us in the preparation of a planting calendar for adaptation to cope with the effects of climate change,” she said.

As an initial response, Secretary Alcala committed to allocate some P10 million in research funds to improve Ilocos’ garlic production.

For her part, Villar, chair of senate committee on agriculture and food, said the issues and concerns on the garlic industry will serve as her aid in crafting policies and practices on the importation of garlic and onions.

“The result of this hearing would be my input in setting up several parameters to protect our local garlic and onion industry from importation and smuggling,” she said.

“Fortunately, the inquiry was able to resolve a lot of problems suffered by our garlic growers. One of these is funding to improve garlic seedlings so that our variety will be more competitive,” she added.

Villar expressed optimism that research and development will make the Ilocos garlic more competitive by cutting its production cost and by boosting its marketability.

Ilocos garlic is currently sold at P200 per kilo at the Batac City public market while imported garlic from China sells at P80 a kilo.

Records from the Ilocos Norte Agriculture Office showed that at least 3,907 farmers from the 19 towns and cities of the province are engaged in garlic production this year with an estimated average yield of 3.17 metric tons per hectare.

This season, at least 1,796 hectares of Ilocos Norte’s farmlands are planted to garlic. (MCA/FGL PIA 1-Ilocos Norte)