The garlic industry predicts this year’s crop will be average despite an extra rainy season.

Patsy Ross, vice president of marketing for Christopher Ranch, Gilroy, Calif., said while this year’s harvest is just beginning the garlic looks fine so far. This year’s volume should be average.

“We expect to sell over 60 million pounds of fresh California garlic in 2009,” Ross said.

John Duffus, director of sales and marketing of The Garlic Co., Bakersfield, Calif., said rainy weather slightly hurt this year’s early garlic crop.

“A percentage of the California early crop experienced a late-season rain that caused some bulb staining,” Duffus said.

About 25% of The Garlic Co.’s early garlic crop was affected by rain, but the company’s California late garlic was not affected.

“The quality of this garlic should be good.”

This year’s garlic is looking nice, Louis Hymel, director of purchasing and marketing of Spice World Inc., in Orlando, Fla.

“We are currently running two shifts grading and packing,” Hymel said.

Hymel said the company’s crop did not experience any major crop issues.

“(We had) some late unusual rains in some areas but not enough to affect anything in a negative way.”

While garlic quality looks promising, yields may be down this year.

Duffus said his company’s garlic crop “is projected to be at or slightly below planned yields.”

Duffus said his company has had an average growing season that’s producing an average-sized crop.

“The California water situation (shortage of irrigation water) in the San Joaquin Valley has affected the ability of many growers to adequately irrigate the garlic crop with quality water. This appears to be the case industry-wide and has had a negative effect on yields and growing costs.”

“The Garlic Co. planted a few more acres to accommodate our planned growth. This increase, along with near plan yields, puts us close to our projected volumes.”

Ross said it was too early to tell what prices will be like this year.

Hymel said prices look to be steady this year.

“The market has been steady and should hold on California. After the crop is in and packed we’ll have a better idea,” he said.

Hymel said the company installed a new volume grader for packing in California last season.

“We’re always looking to improve packs and efficiencies,” Hymel said.

Production is growing steadily this year and shouldn’t be affected by Chinese garlic, he said.

Hymel said California’s volume is up a little and consumption has steadily increased over the years.

The Garlic Co. continues to grow in all market segments, including industrial ingredient, foodservice and retail, Duffus said. The company increases its garlic production each year to accommodate growth, he said.

Hymel said that California garlic should be about the same as last year.

“China planted less with decreased yields, which has lead to higher prices on Chinese garlic. We are one of the few remaining California Garlic Growers that have survived the Chinese influx that began over a decade ago,” Hymel said.

Hymel said he thought the biggest market issue would concern the impact of Chinese garlic on the U.S. fresh garlic market.

“U.S. garlic producers anticipate that China will dump garlic into the U.S. market at various times during the year, and therefore, we plan our California production accordingly.”

China’s garlic crop is reported to be down up to 50% from last year because of reduced acreage and weather problems, Duffus said.

Duffus said there’s been some increase in Chinese garlic prices because of the shortage.

“We are not sure of the total impact of this short Chinese crop, but it may continue to affect garlic prices this crop year, which runs from June to May.”

Exporting and importing garlic will occur this season, but some are questioning why some local distributors are using imported garlic.

Hymel said his company exports to Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, Australia and the Caribbean.

Ross said the company is asking chefs what they think about domestic and imported garlic.

“Many chefs are surprised that their distributors are taking imported garlic when California garlic is available year-round.”