The Department of Agriculture (DA) is collaborating with the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) to develop and produce improved garlic planting materials through tissue culture using the facilities of the university.
It aims to replicate the success of the local onion industry in addressing issues on garlic, particularly on how to survive in a domestic market that is predominantly supplied by imports.
“The country has depended largely on imported garlic to provide the country’s requirements. Boosting local production is not easy when imports have driven garlic farmers out of the business for many years,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said.
In 2011, farmgate price of local garlic rose to a record high of P108 per kilogram. Garlic farmers were selling all their produce, including what they would have used as planting materials to cash in on the high prices.
“This resulted in the depletion of planting materials,” Alcala said, noting that the story is the same for other commodities that face the same flooding of imports.
To avoid a repeat of the situation, the DA chief said they are now engaging and supporting the garlic farmers and distributors through farming technologies and logistics improvement—interventions that have not received much attention for many years.
“This step revived a previous effort of the university which fizzled out when farmers left the business of garlic farming,” he said.
Besides the partnership with MMSU, the DA provided support through improved planting materials and the opening of production areas such as those in Oriental Mindoro and in Miag-ao and Igbaras in Iloilo.
The DA has also connected garlic growers in Ilocos, Batanes, and Nueva Vizcaya to metropolitan markets. For the first time, local garlic is reaching Metro Manila and even areas like Basilan.
It is also pushing for a two-crop cycle for garlic to boost the country’s production of the commodity and ease its dependence on imported supply. The current crop cycle supports only a single planting in a year.
Garlic, with a crop cycle that takes about four to five months from planting to harvest, grows well during dry months. Local farmers typically plant in October or November and harvest by February or March.
Alcala proposed that farmers plant as early as September so they could harvest by December and plant again within the month which they will harvest by March.
“Planting twice a year means double income for farmers,” he said.
For the onion sector, it experienced sharp drops in farmgate prices from an average of P44 per kilogram in 2008, to P36 per kilogram in 2009, and to P26 per kilogram in 2010.
This discouraged onion farmers from continuing to plant. It was then that the DA intervened with support for planting materials and post-harvest facilities to encourage onion farmers to continue planting.
As a result, areas planted to onion increased from 14,641 hectares in 2011 to 15,415 hectares in 2013. Consequently, production volume increased from 128,387 metric tons in 2011 to 134,161 metric tons by 2013.
Onion farmers who continued to plant had their best years in 2011 and 2012 when onion farmgate prices rose to P52 to P55 per kilogram although this has gone down to P37 per kilogram as of 2013.
The stakeholders’ experience in addressing the situation of the industry led to their organizing the National Onion Action Team (NOAT) composed of onion farmers, local government units, onion traders and cold storage owners.
The group served as a consultative body of the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fishery, providing a venue for reaching a consensus among themselves on what is best for the industry and fair to all stakeholders.
Learning from the onion experience, garlic stakeholders formed the National Garlic Action Team (NGAT) to address industry issues.