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Mood upbeat at garlic industry breakfast

by Joel Gebet | October 11, 2009
ANAHEIM, CA -- The mood of members of the garlic trade was upbeat during the annual garlic industry breakfast, held Oct. 3 at the Hilton Anaheim, here, and sponsored by Christopher Ranch and Empacadora GAB.

Jeff Stokes of Christopher Ranch said that the firm was seeing increased volume from retailers but not from foodservice providers. However, he said that when the economy improves, that would change and foodservice sales would increase.

Paul Auerbach of Maurice A. Auerbach Inc. said that he was seeing "good demand for both Chinese and U.S. product. The biggest change we've seen is the change in the price level."

Even members of the Chinese garlic industry, whose attendance at the meeting would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, were positive about the upcoming year.

Clara Shih of Best Buy Produce International Inc. was accompanied by several members of Shenzhen Xinboda Industrial Co. Ltd., a Shenzhen, China-based firm that is one of the country's larger exporters of garlic. Ms. Shih told those assembled that "the garlic price in China is very high, and production is 40 percent less. With increasing demand in China and not much product around, we believe the price is going to go up throughout the year."

Ms. Shih continued, "We haven't brought in a lot of garlic because we don't want to ruin the market here. The price is very high, which is good for us. We're not here to ruin the market, we're here to make money for everybody."

Jim Provost of I Love Produce LLC said, "The garlic from China is priced a little bit higher than it has been. If you look at the big picture, demand in China domestically is going to increase, so I think long-term we're looking at a trend that is probably going to help the industry."

Mr. Provost continued, "Regarding imports versus domestic, we sell both and are proud to do so, but I don't look at it as an 'us vs. them' philosophy. We have the best product in the world to sell. Americans eat too much junk food. I look at it as 'let's make it garlic versus these junk foods' and 'produce versus these junk foods,' and those are the things that we can promote as an industry to increase our consumption."

Louis Hymel of Spice World Inc. said that from a market standpoint, the "Chinese not having as much come into this market just makes it so much easier. I think it's going to be a good year it has been so far."