Demand for Ontario, Canada-grown garlic has jumped.
“This year’s hyper-localized consumers are generating pre-release anticipation. Farm stands and independent grocers have called early and chain stores also want to secure their markets early,” says Jackie Rowe of Hensall, ON-based The Garlic Box.
While demand for Ontario-grown garlic has been increasing since 2005 thanks to the eat local movement, Rowe says COVID-19 has pushed interest in Ontario garlic into the ‘hyper-local territory.’ “COVID-19 has just really kicked demand off for local garlic,” she says. “When I started in 1997, nobody was interested in Ontario garlic.”
Because of COVID-19, says Rowe, consumers are also cooking at home more and looking to boost their immune systems via the food products they’re buying. “And we’ve got high BRIX in our garlic which is a very dense nutrient platform compared to other varieties being imported,” she says.
Harvesting garlic in Ontario.
Earlier 2020 harvest start
To meet that demand there are good supplies as well. Garlic scapes, which are only available fresh, have been in good supply from mid-June and will continue to mid-July. “And we’re starting to harvest market-garlic this weekend,” says Rowe. “It’s early this year. Normally it’s not until mid to late-July but this year everything is ahead and we’re hoping to have garlic in the marketplace in the first week of August.” On top of that, seed garlic will become available in late August and The Garlic Box has also introduced bagged individual quick-frozen garlic cloves to serve the market year-round. (Also available year-round are dehydrated garlic chips.)
Rowe says this year’s crop looks robust and very thick as it heads into harvest. “Every year the farmers are becoming more and more efficient and resourceful at how to maximize their yield out of the field,” she says. “We’re becoming more confident in having sizing that’s dependable. The growers are finding ways to establish consistent sizing in a crop.”
Supplies come from Perth, Huron and Central-Elgin counties in Ontario. Competing supplies are from those counties as well, and Rowe notes that Quebec is also a large producer of garlic.
So where does this leave pricing? Rowe says that pricing on local garlic had been stable for the past two years and while The Garlic Box had intended to carry that pricing into 2020, COVID-19-related costs (such as masks, sanitizer, hand washing stations, etc.) have added to this year’s farm gate pricing, as have labor shortages.