MANILA, Philippines – As prices spiked despite sufficient supply, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) seized Wednesday, June 11, an estimated 60,000 kilograms of smuggled garlic that entered the Batangas port.
The seized garlic, estimated to weigh from 50,000 to 60,000 kg, were packed in 10-kg bags purportedly from Taiwan and stored in two 40-foot container vans that arrived from Hong Kong Sunday, June 1.
The shipment was consigned to Good Earth Merchandising based in Cagayan de Oro City and was brokered by a certain Antonio Enriquez with address at Tuktukan, Guiguinto, Bulacan.
In import documents filed with the BOC, the shipment was declared as “cocoa beans to be used as raw material for chocolate.” An alert order was hoisted on the shipment based on information received by the agency’s Intelligence Group.
“We cannot allow smuggling of agricultural products to go unchecked. These unscrupulous importers disrupt our local economy and cause loss of jobs and livelihood for our farmers,” said BOC Port of Batangas District Collector Ernesto Benitez Jr.
A cooking staple, around 30% of the country’s garlic requirement is produced locally while 70% is imported.
From the usual P60 to P90 per kg, garlic price rose to as high as P360 to P400 in wet markets and groceries nationwide, the BOC said in a statement.
The prevailing retail price for local garlic is double the average farmgate price of P100 to P130 per kg.
On Monday, the Department of Agriculture (DA) launched an investigation and formed an action team following reports that traders from various regions have not been buying farmers’ produce, causing depleted supply of local garlic in Metro Manila.
Such traders may suffer sanctions under the Price Act, which punishes such offenses with imprisonment of not less than a year but no more than 10 years and fine of not less than P5,000 but not more than P1 million.
On Tuesday, Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, called on all concerned government agencies to look into the garlic price spike.
“We have to ensure the protection of the consuming public. The exorbitant prices being imposed on garlic might also result in an increase in the prices of other food products,” VIllar said. – Rappler.com