Alcala clueless on skyrocketing garlic prices

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 05 2014 06:40 PM | Updated as of Sep 06 2014 02:40 AM

MANILA - Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala is still clueless why the price of garlic went up to as much as P300 a kilo recently.

Alcala faced the House of Representatives appropriations committee on Friday to defend his agency's proposed budget for 2015 as well as explain the recent spike in garlic prices.

Alcala conceded that the market price of garlic is unreasonable.

He also clarified that local garlic actually costs just 40 pesos per kilo.

The agriculture chief explained that the price of garlic shot up after the harvest season in the first quarter of the year.

"Nung tumaas presyo napakalapit sa pagkaka-harvest we have enough supply ng local garlic. Nagkaroon ng tightness ng supply kaya patuloy na nag-aaral paano isasaayos. Kung mapansin ng mga mambabatas, totoong nagtaas pero may supply. Ako po kasama sa paniniwala na may nagsamantala," he said.

ACT Teachers' party list Rep. Antonio Tinio said a congressional inquiry established that the landing price of imported garlic was merely 30 pesos per kilo while the price of locally grown garlic was 70 pesos per kilo. The price of garlic in the market was 300-400 pesos a kilo in June.

Government investigators earlier said high garlic prices are caused by collusion and a cartel. The National Bureau of Investigation has launched a probe to build cases against involved officials and traders.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima bared that a majority of import permits were granted to only one group of garlic traders. Media reports said garlic imports are controlled by 4 individuals through a web of dummy interests accredited by the Bureau of Plant Industry.

Tinio said the Department of Justice named one Leah Cruz as among those responsible for the increase in garlic prices. Leah Cruz is part of the the National Garlic Action Team formed by the Bureau of Plant Industry.

Alcala confirmed that Cruz is part of the team but said he has no copy of the DOJ investigation report.

He also does not know the other 3 players, aside from Leah Cruz, being blamed for the high cost of garlic.

Tinio noted that as a prime commodity, garlic should be subject to price controls. He noted no price controls were recommended as government opted to instead saturate the market with lower priced garlic.