By Nila O. Argel, PIA 1, Ilocos Sur
SINAIT, Ilocos Sur – The Bawang (garlic) festival celebration this year will focus on reviving the local garlic industry which has suffered a slump due to stiff competition from imported and smuggled garlic.
The annual festival promotes the tiny-bulb variety which is more expensive but better in quality with far more flavor and aroma than imported ones.
Garlic remains one of the most valuable kitchen ingredients today on top of its widely-recognized health enhancing content. Garlic promotes the well-being of the heart and immune systems with antioxidant properties and helps maintain healthy blood circulation.
Reginald I. Yadao, project coordinator of the Sinait Garlic Center of the North Producers Cooperative (SGC-NPC) in Ilocos Sur, said what makes garlic unique is that the crop has no hybrid variety.
“Seeds have always been our problem. We just keep on using the same seeds season after season. Unlike onions which have hybrid versions,” he said.
Yadao said Ilocos garlic production has been declining from 73 percent production in 2008 to only 68 percent in 2010.
He said Sinait farmers need new technologies in garlic production to improve farmers’ yield.
According to a report, the large-bulb garlic sold in malls and supermarkets is not grown in the Philippines.
The Philippines continues to import garlic, mostly from China to meet the demand. At one point, 55,000 metric tons of garlic grown abroad was imported into the Philippines.
Nicomedes P. Eleazar, director of the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), said the bureau continues to support the planting of crops that are adversely affected by farm imports like garlic.
“Ilocos farmers remain committed to planting garlic. We’re strengthening their competitiveness through value adding and we’re helping farmers become entrepreneurs,” he said.
Two food companies, Jollibee and Splash Foods, have signified their interest to use Filipino-grown garlic.
The Sinait cooperative is set to start its sale of eight metric tons of peeled garlic per month to Jollibee while four metric tons per of peeled garlic and 1.5 metric towns of powdered garlic will be supplied to Splash Foods this June.
In a separate agreement, the Sinait Garlic Center will supply crop consolidator Nueva Segovia Consortium of Cooperative (NSCC) with seven metric tons of garlic.
Yadao said the Sinait Garlic Center is eyeing to buy a refrigerated van to maintain the quality of garlic while in transit from Ilocos to Metro Manila.
The Sinait cooperative has received a P3 million-commercial technology program from the BAR to revive garlic production in the Ilocos.
The training and technology from the program will enable garlic growers to create value-added products like garlic bulbs, noodles, pickles, flakes, chips, powder and polvoron.#