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Philippines import monopoly on onion, garlic must be dismantled

Saying the import monopoly on onion and garlic must be dismantled, Senator Cynthia Villar on Monday asked the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) to make public the names of traders and importers and farmer associations who obtained import permits for the basic food ingredients.

"We have to be transparent and make public this list so that we can check for ourselves whether or not a monopoly exists in the importation of garlic and onion in the country," Villar said.

At a hearing of the Committee on Agriculture and Food which she chairs, Villar asked BPI Director Clarito Barron to submit to the committee a report on the groups given import permits, the volumes they are expected to import and their performance in importation.

"This way, we can also check if the 60-40 scheme we have agreed upon is being followed and if this scheme benefits the farmers more,” she explained.

Under the 60-40 scheme, farmer organizations are given 60 percent of the volume of garlic or onion needed to be imported as determined by the National Onion Task Force and the National Garlic Task Force. Traders/importers are given 40 percent in this scheme.

Villar also expressed dismay over circumstances such as bad weather and expired permits that hinder the opportunity for farmers to earn from importation.

"To address this, we are proposing not to extend the validity of import permits but rather to issue new permits after expiration so as to give other groups a chance-- observing the 60-40 scheme, of course," the senator said.

It was learned during the hearing that only half of the needed 9,100 metric tonnes of onions were imported.

Villar also reminded the BPI to strictly follow the agreement to evenly distribute the import permits to accredited groups under the 60-40 scheme so as to stop the perception some favoured groups have the edge in importations of these products.

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