US retailers are experiencing garlic shortages and prices are spiking during the COVID-19 shutdowns. Some growers say the pandemic was the final nudge on a row of dominos that moved the market.
Stuck at home, more people are cooking with garlic, according to retail data. Some industry leaders speculate the garlic rush is also tied to the vegetable’s health properties. But while demand is rising, supply is shrinking.
The virus caused disruptions in the supply chain with China, the world’s largest garlic producer. Argentina, another garlic giant, recently rerouted most of its exports to Brazil instead of the US in a trade deal. And domestic-produced garlic was already in short supply after violent rainstorms destroyed much of 2019’s crop.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, one string of five garlic bulbs cost around $1.43 on average this spring — 29% more than at the same time last year. Industry experts predict garlic imports will increase and prices will stabilize in May or June as global supply chains recalibrate and lockdowns are eased.
“There’s no need to panic-buy,” said Bill Christopher, president of Christopher Ranch LLC in Gilroy, California, one of the nation’s largest garlic producers. “I know a lot of stores are out of garlic, but it shouldn’t be for long.”