(Oct. 27) SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Garlic growers from the U.S. and Mexico agree on two things: oversupply of Chinese garlic affects them all and it’s time to unite in an effort to compete more effectively.

That was the consensus at a breakfast meeting sponsored by Christopher Ranch LLC, Gilroy, Calif., during Fresh Summit 2006. Bill Christopher, managing partner of Christopher Ranch LLC, said garlic is now a commodity because the continuing influx of government-subsidized Chinese garlic means there is no bottom price for their product.

During his opening comments to a packed room, Christopher said the industry needs to work more effectively with the media to gets its message of quality and consistency out to consumers as it continues to meet with attorneys and U.S. Customs in an attempt to keep prices fair.

He questioned China’s water quality and said taste is one of the main selling points for U.S. and Mexican garlic.

“Traceability is also a big issue,” he said. “If something goes wrong, like with the spinach industry, you can trace back to the source in the U.S. or Mexico, but where do you go if there’s a problem with Chinese garlic?”

During the meeting, growers from around the country reported what was happening in their areas.

Most agreed that it’s difficult to determine if anyone is making money selling Chinese garlic, which they say they all do out of necessity.

One member of the group from Los Angeles said the Chinese continue to flood the market with product. He said there were still plenty of loyal customers, but he still was frustrated when long-time customers would suddenly switch to Chinese garlic because it is cheaper.