By Mario Casayuran | Manila Bulletin
Sen. Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. blamed yesterday unchecked smuggling for the current high prices of garlic as he asked the national government for help to resolve this problem by giving much-needed technical assistance to the “dying” garlic industry of Ilocos Norte.
“I think 70 percent of the garlic (in the county) comes from Ilocos Norte up to now. So the garlic growers have been facing very big problems for a long time now, the biggest is smuggling,” Marcos, a former Ilocos Norte governor and congressman, said. Marcos explained that the entry of smuggled garlic has an effect on the market.
“I think the problem, if there is a shortage, is because we failed to take care of the garlic industry and the garlic growers,” he said.
Because government has failed to stem the illegal inflow of foreign-produced garlic, growers have begun shifting to high-value crops such as vegetables that are now transported to Baguio, he pointed out.
Marcos admitted that the genetic pool of Ilocos Norte garlic variety is “too small.”
“There is, therefore, a pressing need to find other varieties so that industry could hybridize it, para mas maganda yung magiging produkto (to make the product more acceptable).” he said.
“So, if we widen the gene pool para mas matibay ang ating garlic, then that would be at least the first step. It requires a lot of support. I don’t know if the province can do it by itself. It needs the support of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and other agencies under the DA,” he said.
“Yes, the garlic farmers could use additional support and R & D (research and development). I think what Governor Imee (Marcos) is looking into the Mexican garlic, a variety very close to the Philippine variety,” he said. Imee is Senator Marcos’ sister.
“If the DA commissions a study at the University of the Philippines at Los Baños, let’s say, then it will be a very useful for the garlic farmers in Ilocos,” he added.
He said that he and Sen. Cynthia A. Villar went to the Batac (Ilocos Norte) public market where she saw the very small Philippine garlic variety.
Marcos said they used to describe Ilocos Norte garlic as “white gold” where many farmers became rich.
“But since the advent of the smuggling, that has changed. The price of garlic has gone down. Now, if there is a shortage that probably means that there is a clamp down on smuggling which reduces supply. Maybe it is time for the DA to think of ways of improving local garlic production and eventually help local garlic farmers,” he said.