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Garlic Wars

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Internet is flooded with articles, esp. the US press, about how the Chinese garlic is flooding the US and how harmful it is.

Let’s list some facts

  • 80% of world’s garlic supplies are from China.
  • Chinese garlic is cheaper
  • Chinese garlic bulbs are processed before being imported. Thus, they appear whiter, do not have roots and look ‘pretty’
  • Chinese garlic is hurting all local garlic producers, be it in California-US; Western India and Australia. Everywhere local garlic farmers are competing with Chinese garlic. Prices differ by almost 60%

Let’s list some claims

  • According to an Indian biotechnologist, interviewed by TV9 (Gujrati channel) in 2010, Chinese garlic is hybrid garlic. Hybrid garlic contains enhanced levels of ABCA1 protein, which leads to diseases.
  • According to foreign press, Chinese garlic contains insecticides. Namely, methyl bromide which leads to high toxicity. Regular exposure to methyl bromide, which is used as a fumigating agent, both on garlic plant and wood packaging can lead to nausea; respiratory and kidney trouble and pulmonary edema among other illnesses. However, there is no published study available about how much and whether all Chinese garlic contains this pesticide. Further, as per 1987 Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances, the chemical is expected to be phased out.
  • Further, FDA in USA has not declared Chinese garlic as unsafe in spite of similar reports in American press.

Some action taken on Chinese garlic imports

  • Govt. of India has banned the import of Chinese garlic as far back as 2005, when consignments were found to contain fungal disease garlic bulb canker. No news of whether the ban on garlic was lifted at a later stage with fresh consignments
  • However, Chinese garlic was flooding sabzi mandis in Gujrat and other regions as late as 2011. This garlic was being imported from Nepal, Bangladesh and other countries.
  • In October 2016, APMC market in Vashi claims that garlic prices are impacted both by rains and by low supply from China. (DNA Report)
  • There is no mention of garlic containing methyl bromide in the Indian market. Chinese garlic is a variety of garlic imported in India via Nepal.

My conclusion is that a large part of garlic wars in India and even in different parts of the world are caused by

  • Price wars. Chinese garlic is cheaper. Availability of Chinese garlic makes it difficult for local farmers to sell their garlic, which is priced higher.
  • In USA, California garlic competes with Chinese garlic on supermarket shelves and suffers as it is priced higher.
  • In India, China is widely seen as flooding the market with fake and inferior quality products. This is true for garlic as well, as Chinese garlic is sometimes bulbous. Also, it is believed to be made pretty looking by a process of bleaching.
  • Patriotic fervour – China is widely believed to have supported Pakistan. People in HP demanded a boycott of Chinese garlic among other goods, esp. in the wake of the Uri attack
  • Make in India campaign – A sharp dissent on foreign goods has been witnessed esp. among traders
  • Rise in organic farming – Organic farming has led to consumer favouring local grown pesticide free garlic.

Key Sources are hyperlinked in the article.


Written by Karuna

November 3, 2016 at 4:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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