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Garlic Profile

By Hayley Boriss, Agricultural Issues Center, University of California.

Revised April 2012 by Lisa Jore, Associate Program Director, Department of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota.


Garlic was introduced into the United States in the 1700s, but its popularity did not begin to increase until the 1920s. Garlic is thought to have originated in the regions of central Asia and historically was used for medicinal purposes. Today, garlic is valued more for its flavoring and used in a wide variety of foods, although it is often still thought to possess medicinal qualities. In the United States, California is the major garlic producing state, followed by Nevada and Oregon.

Industry Structure
Garlic is marketed as certified seed or as a fresh or dehydrated product. The majority of garlic is dehydrated and used in a wide variety of processed foods. Dehydrated garlic accounts for roughly 75 percent of U.S. garlic consumption. A more limited amount of garlic is planted for seed stock. Typically, garlic grown for dehydration or for seed stock is not used in the fresh market.  Another distinction is that garlic used for the fresh market is hand-picked. Consequently, three distinct sectors have developed with separate production and distribution channels specific to the end use (Arizona State University).

Nearly all commercial garlic production is grown under contract between grower and buyer. Much of the commercial product is shipped to specific locations from which it is either processed for dehydration or moved to fresh market retail sales. The garlic industry remains concentrated in both the fresh and dehydrated markets. Only a handful of large shippers control the movement of fresh product, and an even smaller number of firms control almost all processing of the dehydrated product (ERS 2000). Gilroy, California, is known as the garlic capital of the United States, largely because that is where a large portion of U.S. garlic is grown, processed and shipped. The city also promotes itself as the home to the annual garlic festival each summer.

Garlic consumption in 2010 was estimated at 2.3 pounds per person (ERS 2011). Much of the increase in demand has been attributed to both an increased affinity for its flavor and the promotion of the health benefits of garlic, which include antibiotic as well as antioxidant effects, and aiding in the reduction of cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

The 2011 garlic crop totaled 4.2 million cwt. In the United States, the majority of fresh and processing garlic production was concentrated in California. 

The value of U.S. garlic production has steadily increased in the last three years, reaching a record $286.8 million in 2011 and surpassing the previous record value of $268.8 million in 1997. Prices have been variable over time, from a low of $24.49 per cwt in 2004 to a record high of $71 per cwt in 2010 and down again to $68.20 per cwt in 2011. Average yield per acre in 2011 was 167 cwt.

Globally, China is by far the largest producer of garlic, harvesting 283 million cwt in 2010. The United States was tied with Egypt for fifth place behind India, South Korea and Russia as world garlic producers.

In 2010, the United States exported 18.6 million pounds, or 8,431 metric tons (MT), of fresh U.S. garlic valued at $16.4 million, primarily to Canada and Mexico (FAS 2011). For all uses, the country exported 12.6 MT of garlic  (ERS 2011).

The United States is the world’s largest import market for fresh garlic, becoming a net importer (imports less exports) of garlic in 1998. In 2010, the United States imported 164.4 million pounds, or 74,531 MT, of fresh garlic valued at $130 million (FAS 2011). The United States also imported 30,170 MT of dried garlic valued at $32.6 million (FAS 2011). For all uses, the country imported 4119.4 MT of garlic (FAS 2011).

China accounted for the majority of total U.S. garlic imports. Other top suppliers of garlic to the United States were Argentina and Mexico.  

Trade Issues
Today, China is the dominant source of imported garlic in the United States, despite the imposition of a 377 percent duty against fresh Chinese garlic imports in 1994. Garlic imports from China increased between 2001 and 2004, while Mexican imports have declined since 2001. The increase in Chinese imports is said to be due to a loophole in the legislation involving the way imports of fresh garlic from new shippers, who were not involved in the anti-dumping order, are handled. While additional legislation may close this dumping loophole, thereby decreasing imports of fresh Chinese garlic in the short run, issues of circumvention and market definitions could persist. Chinese exporters may effectively circumvent the 1994 order by shipping “like products” or using third countries to ship through. An additional concern includes increased exports of dehydrated and processed product, which is not covered under the 1994 order (ERS 2007, Arizona State University 2000).

Garlic: Flavor of the Ages, ERS, USDA, 2000.

Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS), Foreign Ag Service (FAS), USDA.

Increased U.S. Imports of Fresh Fruit and Vegetables, ERS, USDA, 2007.

Statistical Database-Agriculture, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAOSTAT), United Nations.

U.S. per capita food availability, ERS, USDA, 2008.

Vegetables and Pulses Outlook, ERS, USDA.

Vegetables and Melons Yearbook, ERS, USDA, 2011.

Vegetables Annual Summary, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), USDA, 2012.


Developed January 2006 and updated April 2012.


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