“Supplies of California garlic are the healthiest they’ve been in months.”
So says Ken Christopher of Christopher Ranch in Gilroy, CA. “We’re just exiting the ‘great garlic shortage’—garlic worldwide was in extreme demand likely due to the COVID situation. That outstripped all forecast supplies. This has been going on since the last week of March,” he adds.
Christopher notes that the company’s early crop started in mid-June and that accounted for approximately 10 percent of its total crop. In mid-July, the late crop started. “Those yields were pretty nice and the quality was excellent. This is the first week in months where we’re able to have complete fulfillment of customer orders,” says Christopher.
Ken Christopher of Christopher Ranch.
Indeed, Christopher notes that demand for garlic throughout the pandemic has been consistently high. “Garlic from Spain, Mexico and Argentina all traditionally would be available now as well. But because of the surge in demand, those inventories have been largely depleted in May and June,” he says. “That means that demand for California garlic is the highest we’ve ever seen.”
He notes that July’s shipments of fresh garlic, compared to July 2019, is up by 25 percent. Organic shipments in that same time period were up 67 percent. “Organics have been steadily ramping up for years and as a percentage of our business, it’s been increasingly important,” says Christopher. “More key retailers and wholesalers are demanding it so we’ve planned accordingly. But jumps like 67 percent have been incredible to see.”
While overall demand looks strong, factoring into that is demand coming from a more unusual source. “Home delivery services such as Blue Apron and HelloFresh, factor in. One item that’s in every box they ship is fresh garlic. It’s the cornerstone of every dish. So as Americans are staying home and major states are locked down or slowly opening, we’ve noticed that a lot of demand from those delivery services,” says Christopher.
The push for peeled garlic
Also playing a role is the wholesale price for Chinese peeled garlic. “That’s starting to go down very quickly because our late garlic is largely used for peeling. As California growers are peeling more of their late garlic, those inventories are returning back to normal and more and more customers are switching back to California,” says Christopher.
Demand continues to look strong for California garlic—Christopher notes that one major retailer is estimating seeing double and triple demand for the coming year.
Not surprisingly, all of this leaves pricing fairly high compared to previous years. “That’s all due to demand,” says Christopher, who also adds that Christopher Ranch has added on two more shifts in its fresh garlic plant to support the increased movement. “During the pandemic, we tried to maintain pricing for retailers to give them predictability. But we are having to make small adjustments upwards now because the new crop is available.”