August 1, 2008

Garlic Market Prices Watched in Effort to Curb Smuggling

By Bangkok Post, Thailand

Jul. 31--The Commerce ministry has put garlic on its control list to help combat an influx of cheaper Chinese garlic, which has pushed down prices of the local crop at a time of heavy harvests.

Traders will be asked to inform authorities of the amounts of garlic they hold and the locations of their warehouses in order to prevent smuggling, according to Yanyong Phuangrach, director-general of the ministry's Internal Trade Department.

Those who fail to comply with the requirement could be subject to penalties that include five years in jail and/or fines up to 140,000 baht.

Garlic prices hovered between 17 and 18 baht per kilogramme in the first half of the year, with dry garlic at 25-27 baht, much cheaper than actual prices that should stand at about 38-40 baht per kg.

Thailand's garlic consumption is estimated at 300,000 tonnes a year against local production of only 80,000 tonnes. Garlic production areas are mostly in the Upper North provinces of Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai, Phayao, Lampang, Nan, Phrae.

According to Customs Department statistics, garlic imported from China totalled about 24,000 tonnes last year, with imports in the first six months of this year increasing to 12,000 tonnes compared with 10,000 in the same period last year. Imported garlic is subject to tariffs as high as 57 percent.

Currently, the ministry's product control list covers 35 items including sugar, instant coffee, yoghurt, palm oil, paddy and milled rice, powdered and fresh milk, condensed milk, fertiliser, pesticide, soap, detergent, shampoo, auto tyres, cement, electrical wire, liquefied petroleum gas, pulp and paper, plastic pellets, medicine, and pork.


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