Customs busts P37-M smuggled garlic

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Customs has seized an estimated 125 metric tons of smuggled garlic worth P37 million ($849,403)*, the agency reported Friday, July 11.

The seizure comes amid soaring price of garlic that reached as high as P300 ($6.89) to P400 ($9.18) in wet markets and groceries across the country.

Customs issued a warrant of seizure and detention on 5 40-foot refrigerated container vans of garlic that arrived at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) in June without a sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) import clearance or permit from the Department of Agriculture (DA).

The garlic, shipped by Jining Shuntianli Import & Export Company Ltd based in Shandong, China, arrived in two separate batches and was consigned to MC Jayson International Trading.

The consignee’s managing director Lito Caraecle denied ownership of the import shipment in a letter to the bureau dated July 3, 2014.

The consignee, MC Jayson International Trading, through its managing director Lito Caraecle denied ownership of the shipment in a letter to the Customs dated July 3, 2014.

Meanwhile, 19 more 40-foot container vans of garlic have been put on hold by MICP district collector Elmir Dela Cruz. The containers, which arrived in 7 separate shipments from May to June, have no import entries filed as of June 30, 2014.

Two of the shipments have been flagged by the Bureau of Plant Industry because these do not have any SPS import clearance.

Importing garlic without the proper import permits from the DA is in violation of Presidential Decree No. 1433 promulgating the Plant Quarantine Law of 1978, which states that traders who wish to import agricultural products must first secure permits from the DA.

“While we are well aware that local production of garlic is not enough to meet the demand, we will not condone the illegal entry of products,” Customs Commissioner John P. Sevilla said.

On July 10, the Customs filed smuggling-related charges for illegal importation of over 100 metric tons of garlic worth an estimated P30 million ($688,515) against Good Earth Merchandise and licensed customs broker Antonio Castro Enriquez.

Malacañang has directed concerned government agencies to look into selling the seized garlic in the local market to help temper high garlic prices without, the Customs said.

Around 30% of the country’s garlic requirement is produced locally while 70% is imported.

In June, it was reported that traders from various regions have not been buying farmers’ produce, causing local garlic shortage in Metro Manila. – Mick Basa/ 

*$1 = 43.57