Those of you who live in the area know that the sweet-smelling town of Gilroy is known as the “Garlic Capitol of the World”, right?
Wrong. It really should be called the “Garlic Festival Capitol of the World.”
Gilroy self-proclaimed itself the Garlic Capitol back in 1979 in an effort to generate the largest attendance rate of a garlic-related festival in the world and, more specifically, to beat out the previous record holder of the town of Arleux in France.
Garlic is consumed more and more each year in the United States, but Gilroy can’t claim to be the world’s major production location. According to the Economic Research Service arm of the US Department of Agriculture, the average American consumed half a pound of garlic in 1981. In 1991, the number jumped to 1.2 pounds per person. The latest figures (from 2001) show 2.0 pounds per year is now the norm, down from an astounding peak of 2.7 pounds per person in 1999. Despite the increased usage, the United States production of garlic is decreasing and imports of cheaper products are increasing. In 1968, all garlic consumed in the US was made in the US. The Chinese have stolen the apocryphal title of garlic production king from Gilroy, and are supplying us with a large percentage of the consumable product.
Beginning in 1994, a glut produced by over-eager Chinese exporters dropped the delivered price of garlic in US ports to a low of just 10 cents per pound. Now the wholesale price is around 15 cents per pound, but despite a federal import tariff of almost 400% on garlic imported from China, American growers cannot economically compete when their wholesale prices approach 80 cents per pound. The difference? A Chinese farming community that is three times larger than the entire population of the United States and that works for incredibly low wages. Gilroy’s (and the nation’s) largest garlic producing company, Christopher Ranch, and its nearest competitor, Bakersfield’s Garlic Company, have been importing garlic from China since mid-2003. What else can they do when US farm workers earn a salary 68 times that of the prolific Chinese? Even the Mexican garlic industry can’t compete with wages that are five times higher than those in China.
Christopher Ranch grew 100 million pounds of garlic for American consumers in 1998. That was slightly more than 18 percent of all garlic grown in the United States, and 12 percent of all garlic consumed. In contrast, this year, Christopher Ranch’s production will be less than 60 million pounds, only 6 percent of the United States’ consumption. Domestic production will only continue to fall as Christopher Ranch, like other withering major garlic producers in the US, succumb to the economic necessity of selling cheap imports from China.
Within a decade, all but the most perishable crops or expensive organics will be imported into the United States. Farming will become a part of American history, as has the textile and apparel industries. Thank you, free trade.
So, anyone know how to get to this year’s Yichang-Wanzhou Garlic Festival?
Big Business and profiteering are just as much to blame. All the big supermarket chains convinced us to buy from them instead of small suppliers. So if we all go to Wallmart (or Asda in my country) they buy from the cheapest supplier and stiff our own suppliers so that we think we’re getting a deal and their shareholders get a nice cut of it all. After all if you’re paying a few cents (pence) less and the labour costs are 65 times cheaper (of course the productivity that is expected of them is perhaps much higher)… factor in shipping costs and you’re still on to a nice earner. It’s nice that these same supermarkets donate to political campaigns and have a large number of lobbyists. Therefore demand better rights for overseas workers so that the prices are driven up so that local producers can compete. Everybody is happier (except the consumer of course) but I’m sure our governments can turn things around (say move budgets away from the millitary or whatever) so that the consumers are hit less hard. It’s just the same with macdonalds… Do you expect to get good beef for the prices you pay there… Plus they (Mac D’s) are helping to screw over our farmers by forcing the price of beef down (since there are only a few major producers and are in a cartel). If we should blame anyone we should blame the shops we buy from for messing things up for everyone so that they can turn huge profits for themselves. Sorry it went a little off topic but I guess if fits with the ramblings bit in your title. Hope America manages to make agriculture a job worth doing again but it’s the customers who have to change things.
If everyone told their Supermarket manager they will NOT buy Chinese garlic things would change. Chinese garlic does not hold up as well, stay as long & is tasteless. Just stopped at Gilroy to buy some real honest to goodness garlic & one can really see the difference. How long from the field to the store should tell you all you need to decide to do something.
I am kind of puzzled. At one point you seem to say in other postings…too bad that you are stupid enough to want to try to be a commercial fisherman or a computer whiz but now you seem to be saying we need to do something about America’s garlic growers? If no help should be given to other industries then why should we worry two seconds about garlic growers? Or farming in general?
The mega farms are not really farms, it is business and the concerns of business and short term profit are not always the same concerns that real farmers have. My understanding is that nich farming: organics and other high value crops, make far more profit per acre and are more sustainable. Looking at the west side of the valley in California, the salt areas and the sinking land due to water pumping and the chemical mess of years of cotton production…it is not a pretty picture.
Almost all efforts that are sold to help the family farm don’t. No farm has been lost due to estate taxes. Most farm “aid” government subsidies or help goes to ADM and other such “family farms”. Those are not farms they are businesses and the new American style business that really only cares about profit, short term profit and does not care about the long term or about America, but they are like so many slime balls, willing to wrap themselves in the flag when it suits them. They will ruin America and the world as long as they make a profit until the end. If it hurries that end, no worry, as long as they still make a profit on that last day.
I’m actually one of those that feel we need to keep industry, farming and so on active, we need to keep those skills and jobs. As we see from recent news about contaminated food from China it really is impossible to check every shipment of food, open every crate of apples, every bag of garlic and every can of mushrooms and check them.
Part of the problem is with industrial food, if you are Joe, of Joe’s Meats on the corner of First and Main you are going to know a lot of your customers and a lot of your customers will know you. If you sell bad meat…you know and your customers know it. If you are an overworked and underpaid cog in a giant machine and you are punished for careful work or rejecting bad meat and you know it is going miles away to people you don’t know and don’t care about what are you going to do when you are tired and maybe you have just been yelled at about your productin. And since you are not here in a legal sense, who you going to call? Ghostbusters maybe? Not this current government! So the further away you are from your client or “victime”, the less you have wrapped up in the business (how much does slave labour care about the future?) the less you care about the quality of your product. How much concern does a line worker in China or Vietnam have for the “rich” American consumer? How much concern does the next five or six levels of managment have for the consumer thousands of miles away?
The other problem is that we need a certain amount of jobs for those that don’t want to salmon fish, work on computers or ask, “would you like fries with that?” Now those jobs are made with pay and working conditions so that they have become the domain of imported labor, labor that is treated like garbage. Now I try to buy American grown garlic and I would not mind buying cans of tomatoes packed by legal workers that are paid well and treated well. I would like to buy meat that has been cut by workers that are treated well, that can work for more than five years without being crippled. I mean we can make tuna “dolphin safe” why can’t we have “worker safe” or some other seal on products that are not made by slave labour, I’d be willing to pay more for it.
I do feel that we are being “led” by leaders leading us to join the third world. They might be right in that there isn’t enough for all of us to live in the first world, there might not be enough for even America to stay in the first world but I feel that we are not even trying to stay first world, we are cutting the things that would keep us first world to keep a few rich, a few making giant profits at the expense of the vast majority of us. Health care might be just one way to look at it, we are number ONE in per capita spending, around twice as much as the second country to us yet we are thirty-seventh in overall health care, we spend more but get less just so we can make a few rich? Look at education, the cost of going to college in America, we seem to be pushing kids away from school so we have a reason to export jobs to China and India, countries that are pushing education. Doesn’t add up to me.
Don’t take this as anything against garlic growers or Christopher Ranch, used to enjoy going to the Festival and met some of the family, nice people. Seem to be trying to be a competive business. Like a lot of their products and wish them well.
There’s not really anything you mention that I disagree with, although I’m not sure that I said that anyone was stupid to try to be a fisherman. I also do not advocate farming subsidies for garlic growers or any other farming industry.
I am tired of America’s business being both exported off-shore and exported locally to a migrant workforce due to financial competition, and yet I highly resent people who expect a handout just because things get tough for a while. It unfortunately seems like the new American way.
For the record, I do not shop at Wal-Mart, for precisely the reasons discussed above. And I also try to pay attention to labels. While I may not always be able to buy American due to lack of supply, I’ve recently purchased clothes from El Salvador rather than from China, appliances from US and Europe rather than from Korea, and plumbing supplies from the US rather than from China. The three cars in my driveway are all American, unlike in years past when I had owned Japanese, Italian, and German.
I also do my part by rambling on about important topics like these (as well as a few really unimportant ones) to help raise awareness and promote discussion. And, at least most of the semi-naked girls that grace the occasional page here are American or at worst European (with a Dominican thrown in the mix for fun)
There’s something about that off-hand “three cars in my driveway” in a disussion about poorly paid farmers in another country that seems both ironic and distinctly American.
This comes from CityNews.
This Garlic Stinks
March 24, 2008
I recently came across some info on the internet that I can’t believe is true (although I’m afraid it might be!) A couple of sites talked about the horrific growing conditions of garlic from China. Allegedly, it’s grown in sewage waste and is coated with a chemical once it’s picked to stop it from ever sprouting. It’s also bleached to make it nice and white. The reason I think this might be true is every time I’ve bought Chinese garlic, it never gives off those green shoots that indicate it’s alive. It is also less pungent than other garlic. But here’s the thing….it’s really cheap. And garlic from other places is getting harder and harder to find. Europe has banned imports of garlic….I guess it’s really important to them. Even in little boutique organic markets, I have only been able to find Chinese garlic. It says it’s organic, but I don’t know if I can believe it. Just wondering whether any of the readers of this blog could verify or discredit this info.
Waiting to hear… firstname.lastname@example.org
Talk about irresponsible journalism! Let’s throw some unsubstantiated facts out there and then wait for reader responses to verify the foregone conclusion. (Although, I am admittedly more curious about this now.)
I recently came across some info on the internet that I can’t believe is true (although I’m afraid it might be!). Allegedly, email@example.com made some odd comments about info she’s seen “on the internet” but hasn’t provided any links to or mentions of where she saw this info.
(In other words, like the vast majority of comment posters, she’s (a) too willing to believe something just because she saw it on the net and (b) too lazy to look into it herself.
Yeah, yeah. Poke, poke. Just don’t tell Kim. (And it’s not like I’m going to sent laurad an email…)
AS LIKE A LOT OF YOU PEOPLE..I’VE BEEN BITTEN BY THE GARLIC BUG AND NOW I LOVE IT. WHAT I’M WRITING ABOUT IS THE CHINESE ISSUE AND THEIR “ORGANIC GARDENING” PRACTICE’S.. WELL I’M RATHER UP IN AGE AND WHEN I WAS IN JAPAN AND CHINA BACK DURING THE 50’S ( THAT MAKES ME OLD )…AT THAT TIME THEY USED HUMAN FERTILIZER TO DO A LOT OF THEIR GARDENING. WE WERE TOLD WHEN I IN THE NAVY NOT TO EAT THEIR FOOD BECAUSE WE WERE TAKING A CHANCE OF DISEASE’S THAT CAN BE GOTTEN FROM EATING FOOD THAT IS GROWN IN SOIL THAT USES HUMAN FERTILIZER. WE IN THIS COUNTRY ARE CHANGING BACK TO A LOT MORE OF ORGANIC FARMING THAN IN THE PAST YEARS. WE USE SHEEP, CHICKEN, COW, PIG, AND WHAT EVER OTHER FERTILIZER THAT IS CONCIDERED ORGANIC. IF CHINA USES HUMAN FERTILIZER, THAT PROBLEY IS CONCIDERED ORGANIC IN THAT COUNTRY. WHEN I WAS A KID BACK IN THE MIDWEST, PEOPLE “HONEY DIPPED” THEIR OUT HOUSES EVERY FEW YEARS AND IT WAS PUT ON THEIR GARDENS. YOU OLDER PEOPLE KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT. NOW A DAYS IN AMERICA THIS PRACTICE OF HONEY DIPPING IS ILLEAGLE I THINK.AND FOR GOOD REASON. I LOOK AT CHINA’S FOOD PRODUCTION LIKE… YUK! I GROW MY OWN GARLIC ( GERMAN PORCELAIN)
AND LOVE IT. THANKS FOR READING ALL MY MISTAKES AND MY TYPING.