10 Dec 2023

Why there is controversy in US over Garlic imported from China? How Chinese Garlic has also affected export demand for Indian-grown garlic?

Concerns have been raised about the import of Chinese garlic into the United States, with claims suggesting potential risks to the American people's health. Senator Rick Scott, a Republican, has urged the government to investigate the impact of Chinese garlic imports on health, contending that the garlic is cultivated using unsanitary methods.

In a letter addressed to the US Commerce Minister, Senator Scott asserted that Chinese garlic is deemed unsafe due to questionable growing practices. China holds the title of the world's largest garlic exporter, with the United States being its primary consumer. The U.S. has accused China of flooding its market with garlic at unusually low prices.

The United States has a history of imposing substantial tariffs on various Chinese goods since the mid-1990s, aiming to shield American producers from the adverse effects of plummeting market prices. These tariffs were further heightened during the Trump administration in 2019.

Garlic is being cultivated using sewage water

Senator Scott, in expressing his concerns, alleged in the letter that garlic is being cultivated using sewage water. He called upon the Commerce Ministry to take immediate action in response to these claims. In addition, the senator emphasized the need for a comprehensive examination of all forms of garlic, including whole or cloves, peeled, fresh, frozen, and those packed in water or other substances.

Contrary to these allegations, the Office for Science and Society at McGill University in Quebec, a body specializing in scientific matters, has stated that there is no evidence supporting the use of sewage water as fertilizer for garlic cultivation in China. In 2017, the university had published an article asserting that there were no issues regarding this particular matter.

Senator Scott's concerns, however, remain steadfast, prompting a call for rigorous scrutiny of the entire spectrum of garlic products imported from China.

Export demand for Indian-grown garlic adversely affected

Meanwhile, the international market is experiencing noncompetitive prices, coupled with the abundant availability of Chinese garlic at lower costs, which has adversely affected the export demand for Indian-grown garlic. 

This decline is further exacerbated by a reduction in domestic garlic production, stemming from farmers reducing acreage due to inadequate compensation in the previous season. Consequently, both local and international markets have witnessed a significant increase in garlic prices.

In the global market, Indian-origin garlic is being offered at prices ranging from $1,500 to $2,500 per tonne (FOB), encompassing various sizes and qualities. This is in contrast to the pricing set by China, the world's primary garlic exporter, which quotes prices between $1,100 and $1,500 per tonne. 

Garlic exporters from Mandsaur and Neemuch, the prominent garlic production and export centers contributing over 80 percent to the national export basket, have provided this comparison.

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