Garlic prices are still very high, and they won’t come down until spring or summer — and possibly not even then, sources said.

Garlic prices high until spring, maybe later

Markets haven’t budged much since last summer, and they only will this summer if Chinese and California growers can overcome expected growing problems, said Jim Provost, president of West Grove, Pa.-based I Love Produce.

On Jan. 18, the Los Angeles terminal market reported a price of $34 for Chinese garlic netted 5s, up from $29-30 last year at the same time.

“The new crops from California and China will come in June and July — if there are any changes, they will be then, but it’s hard to say,” Provost said.

Because of the strong markets, Chinese growers should plant up to 25% more garlic this year, Provost said. But the driest growing conditions in 80 years could mean lower yields will negate higher acreage.

Louis Hymel, director of purchasing and marketing at Orlando, Fla.-based Spice World Inc., said Chinese plantings could be up as much as 30%. His assessment of growing conditions in mid-January was slightly more optimistic.

“Unless Mother Nature intervenes, we should see pretty good production,” he said.

New-crop Chinese garlic won’t likely reach the U.S. until July, Hymel said.

In California, meanwhile, inferior seed stock — thanks to cold, rainy weather in Oregon and California last year — could reduce garlic yields there, Provost said.

“It will be interesting to see if there are more supplies or not,” Provost said.

Prices could come down in April when Mexican garlic enters the U.S. market, Hymel said.

“We hope to see a little relief,” he said. “The Mexican crop so far is looking good.”

But Provost said very strong demand within Mexico will likely limit shipments to the U.S., so much so that U.S. markets probably won’t move.

Hymel and Provost agreed shipments from Argentina, whose deal is just beginning, won’t be large enough to lower U.S. prices.

“Yields in Argentina are up, but demand has been so strong right out of the gate in Europe, Brazil and Mexico, there won’t be enough to impact the market,” Provost said.