'Chinese traders' behind garlic price hike?

By Aie Balagtas See, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jul 18 2014 09:34 AM | Updated as of Jul 18 2014 05:34 PM

MANILA - Probers at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) are eyeing alleged ''Chinese traders'' in Binondo, Manila as a possible reason behind the sudden rise of garlic prices in the market.

A source said at least 14 major markets in Metro Manila have been inspected and investigators found out that most of the garlic supplies were sourced from Divisoria.

“The source of retailers in Divisoria comes from ‘Chinese traders’ in Binondo. It looks like this is where the prices start,” the source told The STAR.

Eight markets inspected by the NBI showed the following garlic prices: Pritil Market, P260 a kilo; La Huerta, P330; Alabang, P280; Baclaran, P350; Trabajo, P300; Marikina, P280; San Juan, P280 (local) and P300 (imported); and Balintawak, P260.

The NBI’s investigation stemmed from President Aquino’s order to look into allegations of garlic hoarding practices in the country.

“What we have noticed was there was, indeed, a sudden increase of garlic price. And this could go up to 900 percent,” another source said.

“The price of garlic is only P40 to P60 a kilo when retailers get it from importers. But if they increase the price to P100, it is already too high. Sometimes the price even reaches P400, so there is really an overpricing,” the source added.

Aside the from the traders, the NBI has also invited seven cooperative groups that were granted 52 garlic importation permits this year by the Bureau of Plant Industry.

“We want to know if there is a mistake in giving a permit to them and why they were all given each a permit which allows a bidder to import 5,000 metric tons of garlic,” he said.