Garlic production in China is significant to the worldwide garlic industry, as China provides 80% of the total world production[1] and is the leading exporter.[2] Following China, other significant garlic producers include India (5% of world production) and Bangladesh (1%).[1] As of 2016, China produced 21 million tonnes annually.[1]

Garlic in China is mentioned in the Calendar of the Xia, dating to 2000 BCE. It is theorized that its cultivation in China occurred at the same time as it did in ancient Mesopotamia.[3] The ancient Chinese recognized the powerful antibiotic effects of garlic and used it in Chinese traditional medicine, using it to cure stomach upset and diarrhea, among other ailments.[4]

Between 1992 and 2000, Chinese garlic exports increased from 128,239 tonnes to 383,860 tonnes, and it became the world’s largest producer.[5]

China has been involved in numerous disputes with its rivals including South Korea, Japan and the United States, and the country has been investigated for dumping. In 1994, the US introduced a 376.67 percent antidumping tax on Chinese garlic for a 5-year period, and when Chinese garlic merchants failed to meet with US official to review the situation in 1999, the duty has since been kept on permanent basis. In 1994, China too introduced regulations on export of garlic to 12 countries, and under the new regulations only 16 firms were permitted to export and a fixed quota was fixed for each firm and a fee collected on that basis. The total quota allotted was mentioned by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce as 100,000 metric tons in 1994 with increasing amounts in the following four years.

In February 2001, the nations agreed to settle the long-running dispute related to China’s interest in three EU nations through a seven-year agreement. In 2004, an antidumping duty was imposed by Canada on garlic as the assessment at that time was China’s exports met 75 percent of the world production of garlic. The review committee had also observed that the production of garlic in China amounted to a 60 percent increase over the 2000 level. In spite of this high production recorded till 2004, the FAO reported that there was a shortage of production in 2005 which resulted in increase of garlic price in the export market to US $13 per box in 2005. Mexico,[6] Brazil, Chile, Thailand, Venezuela and South Africa joined the US and Canada in imposing an antidumping duty. However, China’s export of garlic to the European Union was duty provided with an exemption up to a limit of 29.1 million pounds of garlic every year, with duty imposed on rising scale on any quantify exceeding this amount. [7]

China has also faced problems with Korea, the most important market for Chinese garlic. In 1999, Korean garlic prices fell by 30 percent, blamed on less costly imported Chinese garlic. As a result, on 1 June 2000 the Korean government introduced a 315 percent levy on imported garlic and restrictions on quantity of imports permitted.[8] The Chinese saw this as a direct attack on their garlic industry and retaliated a week later on 7 June 2000 by suspending the import of Korean-made mobile phones and polyethylene.[8] Six weeks later they lifted the suspension and Korean diplomats reached an agreement over the garlic industry with the Chinese, under which Korea could import 32,000 tonnes annually at low tariffs and would be permitted to grow by 5.25% per annum over a 3-year period.[8] The Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation (MOFTEC) established the “Provisional Rules on Management of Export of Garlic to South Korea” to specifically manage and regulate it.[8]

In January 2013 it was reported that two British men had made millions of euros smuggling Chinese garlic from Norway into Sweden; illegal as the EU imposes a 9.6 percent duty on garlic which is imported from overseas.[9]


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