Department of Agriculture (DA)

Philippines: Looking to 'success' in onion farming to rekindle garlic production

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is looking to the local onion industry for lessons that can be used to address the recent spike in prices of garlic.

“While garlic is an agriculture produce, the country has depended largely on imports to provide for the country’s requirements. Boosting local production is not easy when farmers have been driven out of business for many years,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said in a statement.

Farm gate prices of garlic hit P108 a kilo in 2011, with farmers drawing down on their stock to the point of selling off even their planting materials.

“This resulted to the depletion of planting materials,” Alcala said, adding that the same pattern has been happening in other commodities.

In the case of onions, farm gate prices fell sharply from P44 a kilo in 2008 to P36 a year later than to P26 in 2010. The drop in prices discouraged farming, leading the DA to roll out support by way of post-harvest facilities and planting materials.

This resulted in an increase in the area planted to onions to 115,415 hectares last year from 4,641 in 2011. Harvest also rose to 134,161 metric tons last year from 128,387 in 2011.

For those who returned to planting, the dividend came in the form of higher prices at P52-55 a kilo in 2012. Prices however fell to P37 a kilo last year.

In light of its experience in onions, the DA is tapping the expertise of the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) in developing improved garlic planting materials through tissue culture.

“This step revived a previous effort of the university which fizzled out with farmers getting out of garlic farming,” Alcala said.

Besides the MMSU expertise, the DA also has arranged planting in Oriental Mindoro and in Miag-ao and Igbaras, both in Iloilo.

Alcala said the department also has re-established networks with garlic growers in the Ilocos Region to deliver locally-grown garlic in Metro Manila.

The DA likewise is planning to adopt a 2-crop cycle to increase domestic production of garlic, which takes about 5 months to grow. The typical cycle begins in October with harvest by February.

Under the agency's proposal, planting should start in September so garlic can be harvested by the end of the year, during which a second round of planting begins for harvest by March.

Source: interaksyon.com

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