China, already beset by a worrying real estate bubble, is now grappling with surging prices for a dinner table staple closer to home – garlic.
The world’s largest producer of the pungent bulbs, China has seen wholesale prices rocket as much as 15-fold since March in large cities such as Beijing, forced up in part by a combination of reduced acreage being planted by local farmers because of the recession – and a belief that garlic can keep away swine flu.
Schools have been hoarding garlic for pupils to eat because of its reputed properties in warding off swine flu. The China Daily has reported that a high school in Hangzhou in eastern China, bought 200 kg of garlic and made students eat it at lunch to keep healthy.
Also supplies have been cut because farmers in China and elsewhere slashed plantings when prices collapsed in the financial crisis.