New crop could bring garlic prices down

05/05/2011 10:13:48 AM
Andy Nelson

Garlic prices will likely come down in June, following almost a year of sustained strong markets.

The price of Chinese garlic could fall 20-30% when new-crop product begins arriving in June, said Jim Provost, president of West Grove, Pa.-based I Love Produce.

New-crop Chinese garlic should begin arriving on the West Coast in mid-June and on the East Coast in late June, Provost said.

Fresh garlic acreage in China is up about 30% this year in the country’s major growing area, weather has been good, and quality should be good and yields high, Provost said.

Patsy Ross, vice president of marketing for Gilroy, Calif.-based Christopher Ranch, agreed.

“If China has a similar harvest as in 2008 and 2009, there will be an oversupply of Chinese garlic to the U.S. and it will drive prices lower,” she said.

The pipeline will likely be so empty by the time new-crop Chinese garlic begins shipping, it could take time for markets to adjust downward, even with an expected bumper crop, said  Louis Hymel, director of purchasing and marketing at Orlando, Fla.-based Spice World Inc.

“China is expected to have a harvest as large as their 2007 season,” Hymel said. “However, inventories are at a low point so it will take awhile to replenish the global pipeline.”

On May 3, white netted 3s and 5s from China sold for $34 on the Los Angeles terminal market, comparable to last year at the same time.

Chinese garlic prices have held steady around $34 since last summer, a level that was at times more than three times the price the year before.

California garlic, meanwhile, has reached the mid-$50s during garlic’s long hot streak, $20 more than in 2009 and $30 more than in 2008.

California, which should begin shipping new-crop garlic in late June, could be another story, Provost said. The growing weather has been good, but a substantial number of growers have had to use old seed from California rather than new seed from Washington and Oregon.

A cold, rainy winter in the Northwest limited the amount of seed available for California growers, Provost said. Using old California seed could limit yields and affect quality, he said.

As a result, he said, the price of California garlic may not change much.

Higher prices, however, don’t necessarily deter customers from buying California garlic, Ross said.

“Many retailers and foodservice customers have committed to taking the high-quality California garlic with the high food safety standards, even though they have to pay a little more,” she said.

Hymel reported good growing weather for new-crop California garlic.

“The crops in Baja and central California are looking nice, and hopefully Mother Nature will cooperate through the harvest,” he said.



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