Tons of seized garlic seen to help ease prices if disposed in local market
by Ellalyn De Vera
Manila Bulletin July 13, 2014
The tons of garlic seized at the Manila port will tested to determine if they are safe for human consumption and free from pest and diseases before it may be sold in the local market, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).
Five of the 24 seized container vans of imported garlic from China being kept at the Manila International Container Port were opened last Saturday to collect samples for sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) testing.
DA Undersecretary for Operations Emerson Palad said that in line with Bureau of Customs (BOC) and DA procedures, the garlic samples will be subjected to SPS testing at the Bureau of Plant Industry. Palad said SPS clearance for all agricultural imports is important to protect local consumers and to make sure that there will be no threat to local agricultural produce.
“The laboratory test usually takes three days, then we will turn over the result and the samples to the BOC for their final disposition,” Palad said.
Should the seized garlic pass SPS testing, BOC and DA may study the possibility of disposing the contraband through the DA’s Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service (DA-AMAS).
DA-AMAS facilitated the farmers’ garlic caravan in various Metro Manila markets to offer cheaper local garlic.
However, he noted that the final disposition of smuggled items will be BOC’s call.
“Should the garlic end up in the local market, it shall further boost the domestic supply and could further influence downward trend in prices, as we expect of the coming in of legal importations in weeks to come,” Palad said.
Estimated at 125 metric tons, the smuggled garlic worth over P37 million was confiscated by BOC for failure to provide necessary import permits.
Palad also noted that tests on the garlic seized earlier at the Port of Batangas showed they were free from pests and diseases.
Customs Commissioner John Sevilla said the smuggled garlic will undergo the standard forfeiture procedures, citing that importing garlic without the proper import permits from DA violates Presidential Decree No. 1433 or the Plant Quarantine Law of 1978.
Meanwhile, DA efforts to provide additional garlic into the market through the deployment of rolling stores have helped ease garlic prices.
The DA said the prevailing market price of imported garlic had gone down to around P150 per kilo in some Metro Manila markets from as high as P400 a kilo.
DA said it expects prices to go down further in the coming weeks following the arrival on Friday of the first batch of legally imported stocks of garlic.