The global garlic market is experiencing mixed fortunes, according to recent reports from around the world. In the Netherlands, demand for garlic remains stable, but prices are lagging behind expectations. Meanwhile, German importers report a good start to the season for fresh garlic from Egypt, and traders in Switzerland say that domestic garlic cultivation is on the rise. In Italy, however, producers are struggling to compete with cheaper Spanish garlic, and there are fears that foreign imports could increase next season. Spain is also experiencing slow sales, with stocks higher than last year due to stagnant demand in Europe.
In Egypt, garlic volumes are down by around 20% compared to last year, but there is solid demand for fresh garlic. In China, considerable quantities of refrigerated garlic from last season are still available on the market, leading to lower prices that are likely to continue to decline. South African garlic growers are facing a tough season due to high rainfall for the third consecutive year, resulting in post-harvest problems and a shortage of local class 1 garlic. In contrast, North America is experiencing a surplus of garlic supply, with much of it coming from Argentina and Peru, while China's oversupply is having a significant impact on the world market.
Netherlands: Stable demand for garlic, price lags somewhat
Unlike ginger, the garlic market remains stable. "We did expect slightly higher prices. Currently, the price for garlic is around EUR 15-18.50 depending on packaging and variety. Demand is stable, here and there you hear of lower prices, which is because a number of those who have recently become licensed want to cull garlic," said a Dutch importer. "The expectation is that the price will remain stable in China and with the prospect of at least 15% less planted, we don't expect the market to move down much more in price."
Germany: Good start for Egyptian garlic
Dutch garlic was increasingly replaced by new arrivals of fresh garlic from Egypt. According to an importer, the demand for the first batches from Egypt is very high compared to last year. "Compared to recent years, the Egyptian growers planted less garlic. Also in other origins like Argentina and Spain the acreage is decreasing because of quality issues and sizing matters. During the last days we've had hot weather in Egypt which affected garlic sizes in a positive way."
Thanks to good storage capacities at origin, the fresh garlic can normally be sold until April, after which exporters are switching to dried garlic. "We expect a good dry garlic season in Egypt, since we are getting more requests from our customers to store garlic for their needs."
Switzerland: Domestic cultivation is gaining ground
Most garlic available on the Swiss market still comes from abroad and is mainly imported from Spain, France and Asia. During the last ten years however, the domestic garlic acreage has increased fivefold. In 2010, there was a total production of only 1.5 hectares - in 2017, it was already almost 40 hectares and 46 tons of harvested garlic. Currently it is over 150 tons of harvested Swiss garlic.
Organic cultivation in particular has grown: the organic cultivation area is now twice as large as the conventional cultivation area and around two thirds of Swiss garlic comes from organic cultivation.
France: Spanish garlic dominant on the market
The 2022/2023 French garlic season has been stressful for the sector because of the waxy breakdown, which affected garlic producers in the South-West and South-East of France, some of whom even lost up to 80% of their harvest. As for prices, they have remained relatively correct throughout the season. The French growing season is now over and the next one will start in August. Most of the garlic currently on the French market is of Spanish origin, and has been since the beginning of December. According to some operators, Chinese garlic is currently on the market, which could have an impact on the next season, since it will lead to a sharp drop in price.
Italy: Italian grown garlic suffers from outside competition
It is not a good period for Italian garlic. An operator from northern Italy claims that the national product suffers from strong competition from Spanish garlic, which has lower costs. Furthermore, the operator claims that several batches of Spanish garlic arrive in Italy and are then resold as Italian, causing unfair competition. Producers have not received a price per kilogram adequate to cover all their expenses, so it is very likely that the hectares being harvested in the coming months will be lower than the average of recent years. Currently, the quantities on the markets are in line with those of previous years, but from next season there are fears of a greater presence of foreign garlic. The operator points out that retailers have increased prices, trying to cover the higher costs of those who do the drying. As for the export, Italian garlic is only exported in small quantities and mainly to neighbouring countries such as Switzerland.
A trader from the south of Italy confirms: "Considerable quantities of refrigerated garlic from the past season are still available, mainly from China and Spain. Prices have remained substantially low. Ninety days until the new garlic will be harvested all over Europe - especially in Spain, Italy and France - it looks like the new campaign will be characterized by weak prices and low demand. In Italy, the domestic produce did rather well, obtaining better prices than the imported produce. The weather has not been the best so far, so we are worried about the yields and quality of the next productions. We are keeping our fingers crossed that there will not be other variables that will have an effect on cultivation costs." The trader also stresses that fresh Egyptian garlic from the new harvest is also arriving on the Italian markets. "In this case too, prices are rather low and no increases are expected."
According to GfK Consumer Panel data, garlic was purchased by 55.2 per cent of Italian households in the last twelve months ending January 2023. The organic segment has not proven to be a relevant purchase driver over time.
Spain: High stocks and slow sales of Spanish garlic
Stocks of Spanish garlic are higher than last year in the same period, mainly due to slow sales both on the local market the European one. Spanish garlic prices are average for this time of the year and they barely cover the increase of production costs. The main cause of the stagnant demand is that Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the UK, are importing more garlic from third countries such as Egypt, looking for lower prices in order to cheapen the product for consumers as they claim the inflation is influencing consumption habits. Meanwhile, the Spanish garlic keeps gaining ground in the US market, which appreciates its quality and food safety certifications, becoming the third biggest market for Spanish garlic exports.
Egypt: Solid demand but lower volumes of garlic
Garlic volumes this year were lower than last year, by about 20 per cent. There is solid demand for fresh green garlic and the market seems favourable for the Egyptian exporters. It’s easier for the garlic breeders this year. There are already inquiries for dry garlic, but the peak season will start by the end of May. The main market for fresh garlic is Europe. For dry garlic, markets are all over the globe, including Thailand, France, South Africa, Spain and other markets.
China: Marketing last season stock with new harvest in sight
International traders are noticing that considerable quantities of refrigerated garlic from the past season are still available on the market, mainly from China. Garlic stored from last year is still released on the market, at low prices. These prices are likely to continue to decline. The amount in storage is said to be so large, that it cannot be marketed before the new season starts in June.
When speaking with a Chinese garlic grower and exporter, he remarked that: "export prices have declined by more than 30% in February compared to same period last year. Export prices are now below 4,500 RMB per ton. Export volume is witnessing a considerable boost compared to last year's season. Covid-19 restriction in China have also been cancelled, lowering container prices and solving delays at export ports". He is confident that garlic prices will start to rise again in a few weeks time, if demand stays equally strong.
South Africa: Difficult season for South African garlic
South Africa remains a net importer of garlic. Even with anti-dumping tariffs, premium Chinese garlic lands at prices with which local garlic growers cannot compete.
The local garlic season was a difficult one, the third year of high rainfall. “When it’s growing it’s dry, and it’s wet when you want to harvest,” says a garlic grower. High humidity in traditionally dry areas like the Karoo caused postharvest problems.
Garlic is grown across wide-ranging regions of South Africa. In some areas planting was delayed by rain, the harvest was held back by rain, or it was humid when the bulbs had to be cured.
The result was an oversupply of grade 3 garlic and a shortage of local class 1 garlic, notes a garlic trader.
Imports from China remained longer than usual, whilst the imports from Argentina will start earlier than usual. Argentinian garlic is more expensive than Chinese garlic, but still less expensive than most South African garlic growers
Growers in the north of the country also grow garlic which mostly go to Mozambique whose cuisine is also related to Portuguese cuisine. Mozambican buyers, a market agent says, prefer smaller bulbs containing numerous small cloves for reasons of flavour.
Unlike countries like Spain and Argentina which have huge domestic or regional garlic markets, that insulate the local garlic industries, South African garlic growers don’t have a very firm stronghold on the domestic market.
Some South African retailers offer imported garlic all year round, opting for larger bulbs with fewer cloves.
The market price will rise from now until June and stored garlic is held back for this period. Garlic is now an average of R41.86/kg (2.13 euros).
North America: Garlic aplenty on North American market
Supplies of garlic in North America are plentiful--particularly coming out of Argentina and Peru. “At the current rate of imports, growers should be careful about becoming the new China as far as garlic supply goes,” says one shipper. “I don't think that’s a good idea because the raw material in China has been under $.13 per lb. ($.29/kg) all year, with no signs of improvement.”
Right now, China has more than 2. 4 million tons of garlic in storage. “The new crop is only a few months away. That’s equal to 100,000 containers so they need to move over 6,000 containers in 16 weeks which is impossible,” he says. “China will be marketing 2022 and 2023 crop years simultaneously come June.”
Meanwhile Southern Hemisphere supply is dominating the market -- namely Argentina and Peru. “Any garlic left unsold from their harvest is being shipped to traders,” he says.
China’s production impacts the world market, so the fact that it is oversupplied impacts other areas coming into production. “Though California is near the end of the season and there is strong domestic demand for California product,” he says. “It will be less impacted by oversupply issues from China.”
As for demand, it’s soft. “Companies are calling us that are not normally in the garlic business asking if we can buy garlic. Since much of this garlic was shipped too late in the season, germination will be an issue so "buyer beware,’” he says. “This kind of speculation and poor quality puts downward pressure on prices.”
South America: Chilean garlic exports to Mexico fall in 2022 by almost 6,000 tons and 18 million dollars
In 2022, garlic was the fourth most exported vegetable by Chile; however, it was also the horticultural product with the largest drop in exported value, according to Odepa in its report on vegetable exports for 2022. Last year, there was a contraction in value of 14.8 million dollars in shipments, going from 41.5 million FOB dollars recorded in 2021 to 26.7 million dollars in 2022.
Garlic is mainly exported fresh; in fact, this format added in value 26.4 million dollars, 98.7% of the total value exported, for the shipment of 13,400 tons.
Chilean fresh garlic was mainly destined for two countries, Mexico and Brazil, which together represented 91% of the exported value. Mexico was the largest buyer of garlic, with a share of 71.7% of the exported value, although there was a considerable drop in shipments; while in 2021 15,400 tons of fresh garlic were exported to that country for a value of 37.1 million FOB dollars, in 2022 these figures dropped to 9,500 tons for a value of 18.9 million FOB dollars, experiencing a drop almost 6,000 tons and 18 million dollars.
It should be noted that in 2022 fresh garlic nevertheless represented 42.6% of the value of total Chilean vegetable exports to Mexico, a country where its cultivation is no less. For this year, it is estimated that some 7,111 hectares will be cultivated in the country, in which more than 95,700 tons will be produced.
Exports of fresh garlic to Brazil, on the contrary, grew with the shipment of 2,800 more tons of garlic and an increase of 4.5 million FOB dollars was registered.
So far in 2023, statistics already show that garlic exports have totaled 8.7 million FOB dollars; almost everything exported in the first month of the year corresponded to fresh garlic and went mainly to Mexico; however, there has been a new decline in exports both in value and volume, according to the Odepa.
Most other countries in Latin America are currently somewhat in-between harvest seasons, however there is currently strong garlic availability from Peru. Suppliers there describe the garlic as having beautiful quality with retail-ready, sleeved garlic. Peruvian garlic is expected to be available from now until May.
Programs with Argentina should also be starting soon, after which the Latin American market will turn to the Mexican organic season. Organic garlic from Mexico is predicted to start in May/June.
One exporter from the US, who offers garlic from Latin America said; “We have very competitive pricing that is not just an introductory offer, it’s a steady pricing for retailers that we offer.”
There are also many offers from Chinese companies selling garlic to Colombia, Panama and other Latin American countries.
Next week: Global Market Overview Onions!