The Real Reason There's A Garlic Shortage Right Now

Running out of garlic can be considered a true kitchen emergency — but unless you've been growing your own, chances are you might have been under a low-key, kitchen-related state of emergency for some time now, because there is a garlic shortage. And if you have spotted any garlic, it will likely be the more expensive, exotic bulbs that you might not have considered purchasing before.

To not have garlic at home is unthinkable for many home cooks, which is one reason why you can't find any garlic at many supermarkets, particularly in California (the state where most of America's garlic is grown). Producers say that thanks to shelter-in-place orders, people have been cooking at home and buying more garlic, triggering a shortage. 

Ken Christopher says that the garlic market has been up and down since the pandemic, plunging when restaurants announced closures and shutdowns happened across the country, then surging on demand from grocers. "It has been quite a wild ride," Christopher tells The Orange County Register. "There was a huge run on grocery stores all over the nation. Demand for California garlic, really for all garlic, is still surging."

Garlic cannot protect anyone against coronavirus

There is another, more unorthodox reason for the garlic shortage, and that's an increased demand for the veggie among those who believe consuming extra helpings of garlic could be a way to protect oneself against the coronavirus. Google Trends is seeing an increase in searches for "health benefits of garlic" — but don't get any ideas, because doctors have debunked that old wives' tale. "I eat a lot of garlic myself but I don't expect it to protect me from infectious disease," UC Berkley epidemiologist Arthur Reingold tells The Orange County Register. The idea that garlic can be consumed as protection against COVID-19 is so widespread the World Health Organization actually singled it out as a popular myth that needed to be dispelled.

The garlic shortage is being felt around the world

A spike in domestic demand isn't the only reason we can't seem to find any but the most expensive types of garlic. The pandemic began disrupting supply chains when it swept through China in the beginning of the year, which in turn triggered a garlic shortage because nearly 30 percent of America's demand is being met by Chinese imports (via Global Trading Magazine). And if it will make you feel better, we're here to tell you that the garlic shortage isn't being felt across the U.S. alone.

Fresh Plaza reports that garlic shortages are happening across the world in Europe, Africa, and the Americas. In Spain, as in China, measures undertaken to prevent the spread of coronavirus is keeping borders closed, and as a result, in Spain at least, migrant workers cannot get to where they need to go. While the Spanish government has tried to fix this problem by training unemployed workers, the new hires are inexperienced, making them a liability when they pick garlic.

The garlic shortage may not go on for too much longer

But the shortage may not last for too much longer. Egypt has stepped up to the plate, giving it a chance to export its garlic to new markets like Canada, the United States, and South Africa. Latin American countries like Peru and Chile are helping their neighbors out by producing garlic which is intended to go to Mexico, Brazil, the U.S., and Australia. Best of all, garlic harvesting season is also just around the corner for China, Mexico, and Spain, just as it is for Californian growers. Christopher believes California garlic is about to get its moment. "There is light at the end of the tunnel," the garlic farm owner says. "Our harvest is going to start in three weeks. We expect to have a very good crop" (via The Orange County Register). 

So hang in there! We may be heading for a new normal, but at least we have a shot at getting garlic back in our kitchens by June.