The Chinese fever for garlic: from ancient medicine to currency to buy homes

From ancient medicine and an essential ingredient in the country’s gastronomy… to ‘currency’ with which to pay the entrance fee when purchasing a home. China has the largest market for garlic, with a global share of 75%, which places it ahead of India, Indonesia and Bangladesh. Explain Ignatius Crespoan economist, that the devotion to this product in the Asian giant took on shades of “mass hysteria” in 2009, when it became a speculative phenomenon. With the appearance of the ‘flu A’ it was spread that garlic had healing properties and in provinces like Shandong the price was multiplied by forty. Only between February 2009 and October 2010 the raw material soared more than 680%. If the minimum set in May 2008 is taken as a reference, the ‘rally’ reached 800%.

Given that prices had fallen a year earlier, some farmers decided not to grow it, which caused supply problems. That episode was known as the garlic gold rush. Rafael Galan‘Perpe’, an economist and financial analyst, explains to ‘La Información’ the reasons why this type of movement, which occurs with raw materials and other types of products, is relatively common in China.

The international press has echoed the campaigns that several promoters in the country have launched in the interior provinces of China, such as Henan. Real estate agents accept garlic or grain as a down payment to purchase a home and they even offer live pigs as an incentive to buyers – it is the largest producer and the largest consumer of this meat internationally. An attempt to revitalize this market in the rural areas of the country, which has seen its real estate market slow down sharply as a result of the Covid crisis.

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