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Lighter Chinese crop may lead to higher prices for California garlic

A lighter-than-normal garlic crop in China, said to be due to small sizes, is expected to result in a 30 percent reduction in Chinese garlic exports to the United States this year, and that should bode well for California producers, giving them the opportunity for better returns on this year's crops.

"The word is that China is short," said Paul Auerbach, president of Maurice A. Auerbach Inc., in Secaucus, NJ. "Being that it is a world market these days, and being that this market her has developed into a very heavily Chinese marketplace ... that is a very important factor."

Garlic-Crop-harvest-copyThe 2012 California garlic harvest was progressing nicely as of late July, with good yields and excellent quality. (Photo courtesy of Christopher Ranch)China's tonnage is down, and "they supposedly have a shortage of big sizes," he said. "So that is going to be the biggest factor in the garlic industry in the world market for the next year and a half." It will have an effect not only on the market for the California crop this year but for the Argentine winter crop and for the Mexican crop in the spring.

The short Chinese crop will put more demand on U.S. production, he said. With good quality and color in the California crop. This year has "all the makings of a good market," he said. It should be a good year not only for producers but for customers as well.

"Rumor has it there are issues with imports, which usually helps us," said Patsy Ross, vice president of marketing for Christopher Ranch LLC in Gilroy, CA. "the biggest problem with Chinese garlic besides coming in at probably less than their own growing costs at times is it comes in at exactly the same time as the domestic supply, so it is not complementary, compared to some other growing regions." The marketing climate has improved from last year, she said. "So far so good, I would say. But it can change on a dime."

Yields are down slightly on Christopher's California garlic crop, Ms. Ross said July 25, but "the quality is very good." Harvest of the company's early-variety garlic was finished and harvest of the later Monviso variety was underway.

"Our yields are similar to last year," said Gurdeep Billan, director of sales for Double D Farms in Coalinga, CA. "Our yields are good. We had a very mild spring, and a dry spring, and a pretty dry summer so far, and that allows for superior quality, and just for ourselves. All California garlic has exceptional quality this year." It is "nice and white" with "no staining."

Double D, which specializes in organic garlic, had already completed the harvest for the 2012 crop.

David Grimes of David E. Grimes Co. in Hollister, CA, describe the 2012 garlic crop as one or the nicest he has seen in years.

If China does not come in heavy this year, there should be good markets, he said.

John Layous, a partner in The Garlic Co. in Bakersfield, CA, also expressed optimism that markets should be better this year if the Chinese imports are, in fact, down 30 percent as expected.

With the harvest underway on the company's own California late-variety garlic, the crop looked normal and the quality good, Mr. Layous said July 25. He would like to see larger sizes on the late garlic, he said, adding, "I don't know if it is any smaller than any other year. Maybe it is just me that wishes it was bigger."

Spice World in Orlando, FL, has "a good crop this year" with "excellent" quality, according to Louis Hymel, director of purchasing, July 25. The company had finished harvesting its early-variety garlic in California's Central Valley and started on the late.