TAIYUAN - The price of garlic continued to soar nationwide this month, rising nearly 25 percent over its previous peak price in May, while most other food products also increased in cost, Xinhua News Agency reported on Monday.
As of Sunday, the average price of garlic reached 14.38 yuan ($2.12) per kg, according to statistics from Xinhua News Agency's national monitoring system of agricultural products.
The price of garlic in North China's Shanxi province has risen by more than 51 percent compared to May, the largest increase in the country, Xinhua reported.
"I only sell several kilograms of garlic a day. Business is not good with the price hike, as restaurant owners buy less to control costs," said Zhao Yali, a 42-year-old garlic dealer, who operates from the Hexi agricultural products wholesale market in Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi.
The wholesale price of garlic in the market, the largest in the city, has hit 14 yuan per kg, seven times more than in January, she said.
The retail price of garlic is 20 yuan per kg in the Meetall supermarket in Changfeng street, which is 10 yuan higher than the same period last year, a saleswoman said.
There is a similar situation in the provinces of Hebei, Liaoning, Shandong, Jiangsu and Hainan, where prices have risen 30 to 42 percent since May.
The price of garlic also exceeded 20 yuan per kg at some markets in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu, where it is more expensive than pork and chicken, the local Yangtze Evening News reported on Monday.
Some customers have reportedly even taken to packaging up the leftover garlic in restaurants, which rarely occurred in the past.
China is the world's largest garlic exporter, followed by Argentina and Spain, and meets three-fourths of the world's demand for garlic.
The latest price hike is the continuation of a process that began in the second half of 2009.
The rocketing price is largely due to a shortage in supply, some analysts said. There has recently been a sharp increase in garlic exports, which has resulted in less garlic for the domestic market, Che Shitang, vice-president of the Qixian County Garlic Company in Henan province, was quoted by the Beijing-based China Industrial Economy News as saying on Monday.
The output in the production of garlic has also dropped 10 percent this year in Qixian, he said.
Like Henan, Jinxiang county in Shandong province is another major garlic producer, which has seen a 13 percent dip in the output of garlic this year due to inclement weather, the China Industrial Economy News reported.
However, Che said malpractices like speculation and hoarding "cannot be ruled out".
In May, officials from the National Development and Reform Commission announced that the government will be taking steps to check speculation and rampant price hikes on garlic and other agricultural commodities.
Meanwhile, the price of food continues to climb across the country, according to Xinhua.