Stinkin’ Rich: Is Garlic the Ultimate Cash Crop?

Garlic has always been revered in the East for its exquisite flavor, for its health-giving properties, and until recently, for its wealth-giving properties. The “garlic bubble” of the last few years rivaled the frenzy of the Gold Rush in the Wild West. And like the big winners during the Gold Rush, garlic speculators won their lucre the old fashioned way.

You could not buy garlic futures on the New York Stock Exchange, instead the smelliest and most successful entrepreneurs went straight to the farmers, stored the goods, and resold them at a significant profit later.

Here in Vermont, we think of garlic in terms of pounds and heads and cloves. In the Chinese stories I researched regarding the garlic bubble, references were made to thousands of metric tons. By this time last year, these metric tons of garlic stock had been completely depleted in some areas.

The garlic hoarding that was prevalent during the garlic bubble is starting to present  unintended consequences. The new garlic season begins in May and it looks like supply has finally caught up with demand. Karen Shen, sales manager of Hengfeng Fresh Produce says “there is an estimated 25% increase in the planting area. As a result, we are estimating a 10% increase in the first yield.” (quoted on

But in South Korea, garlic is still the ultimate cash crop. Just this week, police sniffed out $10M cash buried in a remote garlic field. According to India’s Deccan Chronicle: “TV footage showed plastic containers brimming with jaw-dropping wads of cash being excavated one after another in the southwestern city of Gimje.” It appears that the garlic field was purchased for the purpose of laundering the huge sum won through illegal internet gambling (this writer recommends a more effective garlic cleanse).

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