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Alcala, BPI hailed by garlic industry



We, the Ilocos Garlic Growers, Itbayat Garlic Producers and Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Aritao Garlic and Onion Growers Association (Nueva Vizcaya), Kooperatiba ng Bayang Sagana (Sta. Rosa, Nueva Ecija), San Jose Garlic and Onion Growers Association (San Jose, Mindoro) and the Magro-MPC (Magsaysay, Occidental Mindoro), would like to express our collective appreciation for the all-out support extended to us by the Department of Agriculture, particularly Secretary Proceso J. Alcala and Director Clarito M. Barron of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), which has led to a record-high harvest in this year’s cropping season, which ended last April.

From what we gathered from our members and other groups, the local garlic industry’s production hit 20,000 metric tons this year, up by 120 percent from the past 20 years’ average of 8,000 metric tons. The current inventory of locally grown garlic, plus the garlic imports in the first half of the year, is more than enough to meet consumer demand up to the end of this year.

The DA’s assistance was vital to this success. Specially symbolic of this support was Secretary Alcala’s visit to Itbayat’s garlic farms, the first ever by a Cabinet-rank official after so many years. Also contributing to the windfall harvest was the favorable weather conditions that prevailed during the first half of 2012.

Government assistance came in the form of seeds and post-harvest facilities such as the hanger driers that the DA deployed in key areas of garlic-producing provinces. Coupled with this was the vital link the DA established between the farms and market networks. The DA itself encouraged vegetable traders to purchase locally grown garlic even in remote parts of the Batanes group of islands, Ilocos provinces, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya and Mindoro.

Although the current price of the commodity is still far from ideal for consumers, the windfall harvest definitely helped in keeping current prices reasonable. Today’s situation is far better than that of 2007 when farmers had to dump their garlic into the sea just to be able to reuse the sacks containing the previous cropping season’s produce, because there were no buyers and the bags were practically more valuable than their contents. A similar situation occurred in Mindoro and Nueva Vizcaya, where farmers were forced to exchange their produce for used clothes. The local garlic industry suffered a slump when the local market was opened to imports in the 1990s.

Part of the local garlic’s resurgence in the market is attributed to its higher quality (richer in aroma and more spicy) and to its medicinal properties which are known to be far superior to those of imported garlic.

Again, we sincerely thank Secretary Alcala for going the extra mile to breathe “new life” to the dying local garlic industry. It is our hope that the good secretary and the DA will continue to extend genuine support and assistance to our industry until we can compete on our own in the global market.

—ARNOLD SAGON,

Itbayat Garlic Producers and Multi-Purpose Cooperative,

asagon@ymail.com


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