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I Love Produce to export Calif. garlic to Asia, Australia, New Zealand

I Love Produce in Kelton, PA, “is going to be looking to export more California garlic this year,” said Jim Provost, managing partner, in an interview with The Produce News July 20.

“We do an international food show in Hong Kong every year called [Asia] Fruit Logistica, and normally that is for setting up our fruit deal with China, so we are exhibiting our USA produce for the Chinese market,” he said.

I Love Produce is in partnership with John Wang in Lantao, an enterprise formed a little over three years ago to import fruit from around the world directly into mainland China.

“This year, I am also going to bring garlic” to Asia Fruit Logistica, “and we are going to exhibit California garlic for export to Japan” and other Asian markets as well as to Australia and New Zealand, Mr. Provost said. “I am looking forward to trying that this year. We have started to get more inquiries about it, and we are hoping that we can turn the inquiries into some business.”

Asia Fruit Logistica will be held Sept. 7-9.

It will be “the first time that we are actually showing California garlic at Fruit Logistica,” Mr. Provost said. “We are hoping that, with the way the world is changing, we are going to be seeing more demand for California exports.”

I Love Produce will be a gold sponsor of Asia Fruit Logistica and will host the opening night reception, he said.

Mr. Provost, who has been in the garlic business for many years, has been importing garlic to the United States from China for about the last eight years.

Following light Chinese crops last year and the year prior, “there is going to be a bumper crop” this year, he said. “Quality and size are excellent, so we are expecting a good supply of high-quality garlic at cheaper prices than they have been the last two years. They have just started harvesting their product, so we are not going to see arrivals on that product here for three or four more weeks,” or around mid-August.

With the 2011 California garlic harvest underway, currently, the U.S. garlic market “is very strong,” Mr. Provost said. But when new-crop Chinese garlic “starts arriving in abundance, the market will drop dramatically, maybe 50 percent.”

Mr. Provost said that he expects that price drop to have an effect, particularly, on “the low end of the market,” so that “off-grades from California … will have to compete at a lower level.”

Some of California’s early garlic has staining from late-season rains, and “that lower-quality garlic will have to compete against top-quality Chinese,” he said.

But on the other hand, “you have to take into account that the dehydration garlic industry, which tries to buy a processing grade for dehydration, hasn’t had a lot of excess garlic available for dehydrating the last two years, so they have exhausted any inventories they had built up, and they are going to be buying heavy into this new crop for dehydration,” Mr. Provost said. That will take some of the lesser-grade garlic coming into the domestic marketplace out of the fresh market.

There is also “strong demand from Brazil and Southeast Asia” for Chinese garlic, he said.