There is one group of Californians who are happy to praise President Donald Trump — the state’s garlic growers.
The president’s decision to slap tariffs on a wide range of Chinese products, including garlic, has meant that domestic growers are having a heyday because garlic from China has become pricey, the BBC reported.
“It is untrue that there are no winners in a trade war,” Ken Christopher, executive vice president of California-based Christopher Ranch, said.
“When President Trump’s tariffs for garlic kicked in, it was at that point that California garlic truly became competitive,” said Christopher, who oversees the nation’s largest garlic farm.
He said the good news gets lost in media carping about Trump’s trade war with China.
“It’s been a difficult thing to talk about, as the media continually simplifies the tariffs as injuring farmers, whereas it actually benefits the domestic garlic industry,” Christopher said.
He told Marketwatch other sectors are also seeing an upswing.
“[T]here’s a much larger narrative to the tariff conversation because it’s not only garlic that’s benefiting from the tariff. Honey farmers, crawfish farmers, they’re among the few that are greatly benefiting,” Christopher said.
As far back as 1994, America’s garlic growers accused China of selling garlic for less than it cost to produce. Although the U.S. put sanctions in place to punish those getting caught, the impact was minimal.
Frank Lavin, a former undersecretary for international trade at the Department of Commerce, said Chinese importers outfoxed the system.
“They would be discovered and sanctioned, and then they would simply set up another dummy structure. The fact is they were more nimble, occasionally, in setting up these entities than U.S. Customs could be in discovering them,” he told the BBC.
Christopher said there is no way around the tariffs, however, because “garlic can’t even enter the country now before the tariff is billed to them. That’s what’s tactically changing the game.”
His farm ships more than 100 million pounds of garlic a year and is enjoying a sales boom.
“We’re seeing growth year-over-year of between 6 to 23 percent every week on our fresh garlic,” Christopher said. “It may not seem like a lot, but when measured in millions of pounds it makes a huge difference to our bottom line.”
Californian farmer Jack Vessey was in the garlic game but had to give it up because China became so dominant.
“Garlic, for many years, accounted for more than 50 percent of our receipts,” he told the BBC. “But once the Chinese began dumping product in the U.S. market, we started to cut back on our acreage and build other sectors of our business.”
Christopher knows the trade war will end, and he said it is “not in the long-term macroeconomic interest of the U.S. to engage in trade wars.”
But, he said, “[O]ur industry needed immediate relief.”
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