When China shut down as a preventative measure against the spread of COVID-19 at the beginning of 2020, the garlic market experienced some tumultuous effects. As China is the largest producer of garlic, an enormous shortage hit the markets across the world. Fortunately, the markets have now mostly stabilized, though the foodservice side is still seeing challenges.
Market has stabilized
China supplies 90% of the world’s garlic and is very important to the North American customer base, together with Spain and California. “Right now, supply and demand are in balance,” says Jim Provost of I Love Produce. “Spain lost some garlic during their harvest because of rains, but China had a bumper crop which made up for it, and the situation in general is stable.”
While the situation is stable now, Provost remains cautious: “Yes, the production has resumed to a normal level, but of course no one can predict when or if any particular production area or market segment will be shut down due to COVID in the future. We are, of course, always concerned for the safety of our team, both here at I Love Produce but also for our partners around the world.”
The foodservice industry makes up an important part of the garlic distribution. “Peeled garlic used to be 50% of the garlic market and was sold primarily to the foodservice industry. We have now lost around 50-60% of our foodservice business which has really impacted the peeled garlic market,” says Provost, adding: “I think a full recovery for this sector is going to be a slow process, starting which a vaccine and ending with consumer confidence, both economically and safety-wise.”
Pricewise, the retail market is stable, while the foodservice side is soft, Provost shares. “Retail demand, too, is stable, and will remain so as long as consumer spending continues. Overall, 2020 has been a very tumultuous year, and I’m looking forward to what 2021 brings,” he concludes.