Ilocos Norte eyes black garlic capital of PH tag

Aside from being known as the fresh garlic capital of the Philippines, the province of Ilocos Norte is now one step to becoming the black garlic capital of the country. 

MMSU President Shirley C. Agrupis declared this on Wednesday before the 575 farmers in Ilocos Norte, who graduated from the six-month curriculum of the university’s school-on-the-air (SOA) program that started last June.

The SOA, which was aired over two radio stations in the province, has taught the farmers the latest production technologies in various high commercial crops and livestock, which they can apply in their farming activities in the next cropping season.

In a graduation ceremony held at MMSU Teatro Ilocandia, Agrupis said MMSU has already passed the Phase 1 of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)-funded project on improving the productivity of black garlic in Ilocos Norte, which will kick-off in this city next year.

The university president said this is another milestone for Ilocos Norte’s reputation as the garlic capital of the Philippines, where at least 72 percent of the annual total garlic production in the country is being produced in the province.

“The province has gone closer to Takko-machi, the well-known garlic capital of Japan, which is located in Aomori Prefecture,” Agrupis said, adding Batac City Mayor Albert D. Chua will help in the effort.

“We are paving the way for the implementation of this effort, expecting the mayor of Takko-machi to come to Batac City next year, so that we will execute a memorandum of agreement between the government of Takko-machi and the local government of Batac,” she added.

If this JICA-funded project will become successful, it will radiate within the garlic-producing towns of Ilocos Norte and that more farmers will benefit from the program.
Meanwhile, black garlic is now locally-produced in Ilocos Norte through MMSU and the provincial government of Ilocos Norte (PGIN).

It is an aged white garlic that is produced from the perfect mixture of heat and humidity for about 30 days without any additional treatments and additives. It is sweet with hints of balsamic vinegar or tamarind, but no strong offensive flavor of the original fresh garlic.

The exotic product from fresh garlic is a sought-after food supplement and an ingredient of expensive culinary recipes in Japan and other countries.

Last year, representatives of three big agencies in Japan arrived in the province to help local farmers improve their garlic yield and introduce the technique of producing BG from the fresh crop.

The three agencies are the Takara Inc. (TI), represented by its president, Kimio Takarada; Takko-Machi Garlic Center (TMGC), represented by its director, Keiko Sato; and the Hirosaki University-Department of Emergency Medical Technology (HU-DEMT), represented by Jin-Ichi Sasaki.

These agencies, which are involved in the production and commercialization of garlic value-added products, have agreed to tie up with the provincial government of Ilocos Norte and MMSU to help the Ilocos Norte black garlic reach national and international markets.

In a partnership meeting between MMSU and the three agencies, Takarada and his company have agreed to not only cooperate in increasing the garlic production in the province through the improved Japanese technology, but also the production of black garlic.

The scope of cooperation includes the introduction of Japanese garlic production technologies for adaptability testing in Ilocos Norte, to further develop and improve the existing black garlic production method under Philippine condition, to develop a national and international market for the commodity, and establish a Garlic Museum and Exhibition Center (GMEC) in the province.

As project leader of MMSU’s black garlic production program, Agrupis said the partnership will pave the way for the successful commercialization of black garlic in the province and in the country.

Under the agreement, the university shall provide experimental farms, basic equipment, laboratory spaces for garlic researches and development (R&D), and staff to implement the R&D aspect of the project.

To further introduce the product to Filipinos, the university is planning to put up a GMEC, which serves as a venue to showcase the different value-added products from fresh garlic.

MMSU is also considering getting support from the national government and arrange a circle of experts for the conduct of joint researches on garlic.

For their part, the three Japanese agencies will: 1) develop the production of black garlic in Ilocos Norte using the locally-produced Ilocos White variety; 2) establish a black garlic production and marketing facilities; 3) get support from the Japanese government in the garlic R&D, commercialization of garlic production technologies, and its processing into black garlic, including the establishment of a GMEC; 4) help MMSU in its garlic R&D; 5) engage MMSU faculty members to undertake R&D in the HU-DEMT laboratories, while exerting effort to help MMSU staff pursue postgraduate studies and training at the HU-DEMT; and 6) get financial support from the Japanese government for the implementation of the project.

Meanwhile, the provincial government of Ilocos Norte has promised to get support from the national government and develop a good market potential of black garlic not only in Ilocos Norte, but also in the Ilocos Region. -- by Reynaldo E. Andres