Garlic production revival pushed

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The government is pushing to rvive its weakening garlic industry with the coming up of mass propagation and tissue culture of virus-free garlic planting materials that can boost production.

Spearheaded by the plant breeders at the Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB), the agency is now planning to partner with the Ilocos Norte local government unit (LGU) led by Governor Imee Marcos, and the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU), for the technology development on garlic planting materials production.

In a statement issued by Dr. Emil Q. Javier, IPB co-founder, the agency is planning to distribute virus-free planting materials in Ilocos Norte and other pilot provinces in the country such as Ilocos Sur, Batanes, Nueva Viscaya, Nueva Ecija, Batangas and Occidental Mindoro.

Tissue culture

Tissue culture is a way of producing numerous disease-free planting materials in the laboratory for mass production in the fields.  Different plant parts are extracted from parent plants and grown under aseptic and controlled environment. At present, the mass micropropagation is done by the Department of Agriculture’s attached agencies.

“The actual commercial propagation of certified virus-free seeds will be performed by designated properly trained farmer seed cooperators/farmer scientists supervised by BPI and Agricultural Training Institute (ATI),” said Dr. Javier.

The success of this technology will have a significant impact in improving income of small farmers.  At a market price of P80 per kilo minus an estimated production cost of P40 per kilo, the net margin is pegged  P40 per kilo or a net income of P160,000 per hectare at a potential yield of 4 tons per hectare. This is three times most farmers’ income of only P50,000 per hectare from rice farming.

Import dependent

The Philippines is virtually import-dependent on garlic, and smuggling concerns (technical and real) have been a menace for government regulators particularly DA’s  BPI. These imports reached 74,000 metric tons (MT) as of 2015 (Philippine Statistics Authority or PSA) representing more than 90 percent of total supply. Import was valued at $25.43 million.

Nevertheless, with this technology on virus-free planting materials and its coordination with LGUs and DA, the country has already achieved a certain level of success in raising production.

Meanwhile, Ilocos provinces reported a marked increase in local production as of the first quarter of 2017 as the tissue culture technique assured farmers in Ilocos Norte access to clean and healthy seeds.

Ilocos Region produced in the first quarter 5,100 MT of garlic, contributing 72.5% to the national total. This became possible with the “bigger bulbs harvested in Ilocos Norte as a result of the availability of more quality seeds from the local government units coupled with favorable wind during bulb formation,” reported the PSA.

To achieve optimum yield in garlic production, planting the crop in Ilocos Norte should only be done between October 15 to November 30 or else the farmer may suffer drastic production losses due to diseases. 

With virus-free planting materials and intensive cultural management, average yields of 5.0 tons per hectare are attainable. These should bring down costs competitive with the P20 per kilogram landed cost of imported garlic.

Dr. Javier said that all resources in garlic planting should be poured into the ideal provinces where farmers have experience and who need no further persuasion to grow this high value commercial crop. (By Reynaldo E. Andres)

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