It is a very difficult proposition to grow organic garlic, according to Bill Christopher, CEO of Christopher Ranch, Gilroy, CA. “You get half the yield and it is twice as expensive to grow.”
And it’s a risky proposition. He said various strains of fungus or pests can wipe out the crop relatively easily because there are very few crop protection tools available for certified organic production. This season, in fact, Christopher Ranch lost a 10 acre field to cultural issues.
On a continuing basis, Christopher said the result is a perpetual demand exceeds supply situation. He said California is the main supplier of organic garlic to the U.S. market and it is very difficult to keep up with that demand. Seasonally, he noted that some organic garlic does come into the U.S. from Mexico and Argentina, but China, which is a significant supplier of conventional garlic, does not have a huge presence in the organic arena.
Overall, Christopher said the market for garlic has stabilized with supply and demand being pretty much in sync. “California garlic was in short supply the last couple of years because of the drought, but we have a good crop this year.”
Garlic is typically harvested in California from June through September and then marketed throughout the year. Depending on size, grade and point of origin, the longtime expert said conventional garlic is currently trading between $1.50 and $2.50 per pound while organic garlic is returning $3.50 to $4.50 per pound.
While all the major grower-shippers do grow some organic acreage to fill the needs of their customers, there just isn’t enough supplies to keep up with the demand. California’s wet winter during 2016/17 did result in more organic acreage. “I’m not sure I’d say acreage has increased; I think we are back to normal,” Christopher noted.