Senator Grace Poe calls for 'price freeze' on garlic

Manila, Philippines - Senator Grace Poe said today that the government should immediately implement a price freeze on garlic as market prices of the prime commodity have increased at alarming proportions.

Grace Poe wants 'price freeze' on garlic

"Do we have an agency that automatically implements a price freeze or moratorium on price spikes if it has been found that there is unreasonably high spikes in basic commodities?" Poe asked during a hearing of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, as a surge in prices of garlic have been noted and existing market prices of the produce ranged from P280 to P350 per kilo.

It was gathered during the hearing that traders earn as much as 900 percent on sales of imported garlic, as the landed cost of garlic from China costs only P17 per kilo, including duties.

Asked by senators if there was price manipulation, Victorio Mario Dimagiba, Trade and Industry Undersecretary for Consumer Welfare and Business Regulation Group and head of the National Price Coordinating Council Secretariat, said, "The facts presented during this hearing show that there was price manipulation... The supply chain is very long to cause a huge increase on the retail price."

Poe, vice-chair of the Senate committee on agriculture, inquired, "What is the tolerance level: 10, 50 or 100 percent? We have to know, otherwise, we are not effectively doing our jobs."

"If we have to call for a hearing each time there is a price increase, by the time we control and stop the abuse, it might have already created so much damage for the consumers. So we have to be able to look into this, not to discourage potential investors and free market but at least to stem or stop abuse. Nine hundred percent profit is certainly obscene," she stressed.

Dimagiba admitted that there is no suggested retail price yet for garlic, while Agriculture Usec. Emerson Palad said a technical working group is looking into the situation.

Under Republic Act No. 7581 or the Price Act of 1992, as amended, implementing agencies such as the Department of Agriculture (DA) may determine, recommend to the President and enforce price ceiling or control if there is "prevalence or widespread acts of illegal price manipulation, the impendency, existence, or effect of any event causes artificial and unreasonable increase in the price of the basic necessity or prime commodity and whenever the prevailing price of any basic necessity or prime commodity has risen to unreasonable levels."

Poe, for her part, said the government must also provide lasting solutions to help local farmers, including farmers' cooperatives.

She also asked the DA and local cooperatives to provide a list of traders to punish hoarders and price manipulators.

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