For not doing anything to prevent the sudden spike in the cost of garlic in the country despite adequate supply, the Department of Agriculture (DA) tolerated garlic traders’ price manipulation, the Senate committee on agriculture and food said on Thursday.
Sen. Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the committee, said the DA had failed to come up with mechanisms for monitoring the price movement of garlic and other agricultural products and did not shield consumers from abusive traders.
Villar noted that under Republic Act 7581 or the Price Act of 1991, which was amended in 2012, the DA was tasked to create a consumer protection group to monitor the prices of all agricultural products in the country.
However, the DA broke the law by failing to create the group and allowing suppliers to freely adjust prices of agricultural products without being held into account.
“The consumer protection group is supposed to monitor and act on sudden movements in the prices of agricultural products in the country, but since the DA failed to create such body, there is no one monitoring the prices,” the senator pointed out.
The committee also saw no reason for sellers to increase garlic prices to between P280 and P300 per kilo, because there was no shortage in the supply of garlic.
According to Villar the price per kilo of imported garlic including duties was only P17 while locally produced garlic is sold for P40.
“Besides, 90 percent of our garlic supply is imported so [the price]should be lower, and we can always import more if needed,” Villar said.
To immediately address the issue and to identify those responsible for the unlawful garlic price increase, Villar said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are conducting an investigation and tracing the cause of the increase.
Traders who manipulated prices will face charges and their permits may be cancelled.
Villar expressed belief that the filing of cases against suppliers found liable could discourage others from price manipulation and eventually help bring down the prices of garlic.
For its part, the DA told the Senate committee that it would come up with a suggested retail price (SRP) for garlic next week and those who refuse to comply will be sanctioned.
Villar said she expected the DA to set the SRP for garlic at a range of P70 to P100 per kilo as soon as it finishes its computation.