THE Department of Agriculture (DA) has suspended the accreditation of 50 more garlic importers amid allegations of cartel-like behavior raised by a Senate investigation.

“I have issued a suspension order for another 50 based on the listing of the Department of Justice (DoJ) as a result of the investigation conducted by Senator (Cynthia A.) Villar. I have signed the suspension order,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol told reporters in Quezon City when asked for updates on the garlic cartel investigation.

“We have to ban them pending the results of the DoJ investigation and the filing of the cases. When they are exonerated, then we will also lift the ban,” said Mr. Piñol. 

The DA ordered last July the suspension of the accreditation of 43 importers for failing to ship 70,100 metric tons of garlic they were expected to import, contributing to a rise in domestic prices.

These importers allegedly brought in only 19,000 metric tons of garlic within the six months to June, the DA said.

In November, the DA revoked all sanitary and phytosanitary permits for the shipment of agricultural products in the process of validating its list of accredited importers, with the aim of weeding out “fictitious” entities.

Some 93% of domestic demand for garlic is met by imports from China and India. — Janina C. Lim