Garlic prices up as cold weather hits China crops

In 2010, a poor harvest in China also pushed up prices here, with some retailers selling garlic at $3 per 500g.
In 2010, a poor harvest in China also pushed up prices here, with some retailers selling garlic at $3 per 500g.TNP FILE PHOTO

A 500g bag now costs at least $2.30, up from a low of $1.45 last year

Consumers here have to pay more for garlic now, as cold weather eats into garlic crops in China, the world's largest producer of the bulbous plant.

While $2 could easily get a 500g bag of garlic previously, with prices as low as $1.45 last year, the same bag will set buyers back by at least $2.30 in supermarkets here.

At the Giant supermarket chain, prices of garlic have gone up by 30 per cent in the past four months to $2.30 for 500g of garlic.

"This could be attributed to the extremely bad weather conditions in China, in areas where garlic is cultivated," a Giant spokesman told The Straits Times. "Many farms reported a decrease in harvests while there are a couple of farms that lost their harvests to the cold snaps in December and January."

Extremely cold weather in winter can damage and even freeze garlic crops.

At FairPrice supermarkets, 500g of garlic now costs $2.30 as well. "Prior to this, the price of garlic was below $2 and remained largely unchanged for the past five years," said a spokesman.

The Straits Times understands that garlic at Sheng Siong supermarkets - now at $2.35 per 500g - costs buyers 50 per cent more compared to March last year.

Crops besides garlic have also been affected by the recent cold weather; China's consumer price index for fresh vegetables rose 29.9 per cent from January to February this year.

Suppliers in China may also be withholding garlic stocks, with some speculating on garlic prices and further driving them up, said Shin Min Daily News on Monday, citing media reports in China.

In 2010, a poor harvest in China similarly pushed up prices of vegetables in Singapore, with some retailers selling garlic at $3 per 500g - levels yet to be reached this year.

Crops besides garlic have also been affected by the recent cold weather; China's consumer price index for fresh vegetables rose 29.9 per cent from January to February this year.

This, however, has not translated into a similar jump in Singapore, with vegetable prices increasing by only 2.9 per cent over the same period.

A drop in the supply of some crop imports from China has been noted by the Singapore Fruits and Vegetables Importers and Exporters Association.

Said Mr Jerry Tan, the association's assistant secretary: "For the past few weeks, we have imported more broccoli, cauliflower and carrots than usual from other countries like Australia, due to the unusually cold weather in China."

Retailers said garlic prices are unlikely to stabilise soon. FairPrice said it is looking to other countries for alternative sources. China, however, is by far the largest producer. In 2013, it produced roughly 80 per cent of the world's garlic.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2016, with the headline 'Garlic prices up as cold weather hits China crops'. Print Edition | Subscribe