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Garlic shortage hits, a side-effect of the coronavirus pandemic

The COVID pandemic has helped create a shortage of aromatic garlic bulbs at the stores. Shelter-in-place orders are the main reason shoppers may be finding no garlic, unusually sized bulbs or more-expensive varieties in grocery stores, said Ken Christopher, executive vice-president of Christopher Ranch, the famed garlic producer from the garlic town of Gilroy.

People largely confined to their homes have been cooking more and buying more garlic, Christopher said. His company, which typically sells 500,000 pounds of garlic weekly to grocers, restaurants and industrial buyers. After the stay-home orders were imposed, demand from restaurants plummeted while requests from grocers exploded, he said, first to 600,000 pounds per week, then 700,000, followed by 800,000 pounds.

“It has been quite a wild ride,” Christopher said. “There was a huge run on grocery stores all over the nation. Demand for California garlic, really for all garlic, is still surging.”

Stockpiles of Gilroy-grown garlic from last year’s harvest were low before the coronavirus outbreak, after spring rains last May stained bulbs and made them unacceptable to retailers, Christopher said, adding that his company had to dump more than 10 million pounds of the blemished produce.

Close to half of the garlic consumed in California is grown in-state by three major farms including Christopher Ranch, he said.

According to, some consumers have ramped up their garlic purchases believing the pungent cloves have properties that could be helpful against the virus, Christopher said. Google Trends indicates searches for “health benefits of garlic” spiked as shelter orders came into effect, with the Bay Area showing the highest interest.

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