Emerson Palad, DA undersecretary for Operations, said they have collected samples from five out of 24 seized containers vans for sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) testing by the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).
“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.
Customs confiscated the shipments at the Manila International Container Port after the consignees failed to provide the necessary import permits. The cargo is estimated at around 125 metric tons and worth P37 million.
“An SPS clearance is imperative for all agricultural imports to protect local consumers and to make sure that there will be no threat on local agricultural produce,” Palad said.
He commended Customs’ intensified drive against the illegal entry of agricultural products, which he said both is beneficial to the government and the farmers.
Palad said that if the garlic passed the SPS testing, it may be sold or distributed through the DA’s Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service (DA-AMAS), which is facilitating the farmers’ garlic caravans in markets in Metro Manila.
The “final disposition of smuggled items, though, is BOC’s call,” he said.
“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,” he added.
Garlic seized earlier at the Port of Batangas tested free from pests and diseases. Customs Commissioner John Sevilla said the smuggled garlic will go through the standard forfeiture procedures.
Consumers can expect garlic prices to significantly drop when the first batch of additional imports starts to arrive by next week.
Palad told reporters the BPI has issued sanitary and phytosanity permits to garlic importers to supply some 14,000 to 16,000 metric tons of garlic.
“We have already issued about 280 SPS permits as of Thursday last week. Starting next week, these shipments will arrive,” Palad said.
BPI’s Plant Quarantine Service is in charge of issuing import permits for plant products.
He also said prices of garlic have started to stabilize even before the arrival of additional imports.
“Based on our monitoring, prices have gone in some areas. There are even reports of P100 to P150 per kilo,” Palad said. He did not elaborate whether the price range was for local or imported garlic.
“There may be moves by these hoarders and speculators to unload their stocks since there are new imports that will come in,” he added.
Amid rising prices of garlic, Palad reiterated that there is an adequate supply of the commodity in the market.
“It’s a matter of price, not supply,” he said, justifying earlier reports that traders and speculators may have been manipulating garlic prices.