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DA High Value Crops unit seeks to add more spice to farmers crops

Agriculture Undersecretary Cheryl Marie Natividad-Caballero, who is in-charge of the DA’s high-value crops program, is looking to add more spice into Filipino farmers’ lives, hoping to duplicate the recent success of onion farmers with those cultivating local garlic, ginger, and shallots.

“These spices are very basic to us. That’s why our value proposition is that, for example, a clove of native garlic is equal in potency to that provided by the bigger-sized import,” said Undersecretary Caballero. She said other countries already appreciate the potency of Ilocos garlic that efforts by DA are underway to ensure planting materials don’t end up overseas.

“The DA is supporting efforts to preserve the garlic heritage through genomics. So, we are looking at a strategic investment in resilient agriculture…to again position our bawang as Ilocos’ white gold in the 1990s,” she said.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed local garlic production account for only 2.6 percent of annual demand of 146,879 metric tons. Ilocos Norte, Batanes and Nueva Ecija are the top three producers of garlic.

Caballero said as early as March, Agriculture Secretary Francisco P. Tiu Laurel, Jr. has ordered DA offices in Region II to buy as much garlic from Ilocos Norte and Batanes that would be redistributed to farmers as planting materials when planting season starts in September.

She said the goal is to increase domestic garlic production to at least 20 percent of domestic requirement by next year, possibly more depending on how DA’s programs pan out and how farmers will respond.

As for ginger and shallots, Caballero said the DA is looking closely at consumption and supply sources as well as usage of these spices. She said data is needed to ensure the country only imports what is needed amid tightness in local supply.

Ginger, for example, Caballero said is both used for home cooking as well as food processing as colorant or as supplement.

She said the DA is now looking at places like provinces in Region IV to determine if there are available supply and if the challenge is more a matter of logistics. “If the challenge is logistics, then how do we now help those producing these