Garlic was among the products that saw a particular boom in 2020. The health advantages of the foodstuff, which are said to help against the corona virus, among other things, and the capricious weather in Spain have significantly aggravated the market situation. "Garlic is always an interesting product, it never gets boring. But this year was special all the same," says Jörg Sturmberg, Managing Director of Jersa Fruchtimport LLC, based in Bergisch Gladbach.
"Corona has stirred things up a bit for everyone. Despite the shortfalls in the hospitality sector, we were able to sell a good 20% more goods via the retail trade. But the weather throughout Europe was also a factor. In Spain, there was a lot of rainfall over a large area. In Germany and the Netherlands, on the other hand, temperatures were high and there were long dry periods. This affected the harvest both in Spain and here," says Sturmberg.
The internal quality of the Spanish product was good, but its appearance often did not meet the expectations of the trade: "The rain in Spain came at a special time in the growth phase and ensured that the tubers were brown on the outside. Since normally snow-white tubers are expected, much had to be sorted out around the quality standards of the trade."
He had hoped for understanding and for an adjustment in the quality controls: "Fortunately, many of our customers responded and were lenient. But this is also because the brown skin is a problem of almost all producers in Spain - so the choice is limited". The large quantities of sorted out goods have a clear influence on the supply: "It's only October and already the quantities are low and the prices are rising drastically. We usually see something like this only in December."
The harvest in Germany, in the Palatinate to be exact, had good yields. The visual and internal quality of the tubers was also satisfactory: "It was very hot in southern Germany; sun and heat are very good for the garlic. What had been lacking in precipitation could be watered. However, the area under cultivation in the Palatinate is naturally only a niche compared to Spain. Unfortunately, this could not compensate for the shortfalls in Spain."
Even the fresh garlic from the Netherlands, which is normally in season until January, will quickly run out in 2020. "It is missing everywhere. Because of the Corona situation, there is a lack of manpower to process the garlic. Together with the high demand, we are already seeing horrendous prices. I have never seen anything like this before."
Spanish garlic definitely has the lion's share on the European market, Sturmberg knows. "We are also seeing Chinese garlic, which has arrived in Germany throughout despite Corona. However, the Spanish product is clearly preferred for reasons of geographical proximity, and thus sustainability."
So what is the future for the garlic market? "From the end of November, fresh garlic from Argentina will be on the market. Due to the high demand, prices here are some 35% higher than last year. If volumes become scarce in the coming months, dry garlic from Argentina could also become interesting," the expert estimates the situation. "Another interesting country of origin could be Zimbabwe in the future. The cultivation already exists there, only the logistics still need to be worked on". Either way - if there is a bottleneck from Spain, and that is what he assumes - alternatives will have to be found. This will certainly not be favorable."
Prices are already high and are tending to rise further: "As always, one can see the discrepancy between the retail trade and the producers. If there is a shortage in the market, prices will have to rise and one will have to concentrate more on the internal quality of the goods. Sturmberg sees himself as the interface between the two sides: "Of course we want to make our retail customers happy, but my heart also beats for the producers. After all, garlic is a natural product that is exposed to environmental influences such as weather. The retail trade must also take this into account."