Garlic Grows to Life

THE Australian garlic industry is staging a comeback, thanks to a newly revived peak industry body.

In its heyday the Australian Garlic Industry Association had 300 members.

But the 21-year-old association was close to collapse last year, due to lack of interest.

A letter to members from secretary Henry Bell warned the association would have to be wound up, prompting several members to volunteer for executive positions.

Dozens of growers and industry representatives recently attended the new-look AGIA's seminar and annual general meeting at Tooleybuc, north of Swan Hill.

AGIA chairman Leon Trembath, who was elected for a two-year term, said people had rallied and there was "a new resolution in the garlic community to keep it going".

Many commercial garlic growers quit the industry after the Sydney wholesale markets were flooded with Chinese garlic at 75c/kg in the mid-1990s.

At the time it cost Australian growers $3.60/kg to produce the crop.

Imports rose from 4481 tonnes in 1995-96 to 10,214 tonnes in 2010-11 and now also originate in Mexico, Argentina, the US, Spain and Chile.

During the past 15 years the AGIA's membership base has changed to mostly boutique growers, with 0.2ha or less. Many sell their product at the farm gate or farmers' markets.

Mr Trembath said the association's focus would change from agronomic issues to "badging" and marketing.

"We want to make sure people can identify Australian garlic," he said.

"We understand the broader community's dislike for imported garlic. They keep telling us at our farmers' market stall, 'We want Australian garlic', and they're not seeing that in the supermarket."

The country's largest garlic producer, Australian Garlic Producers, is not a member of the AGIA. But AGP director Nick Diamantopoulos welcomed the AGIA's resurrection.

"It's a great resource, being able to share information and talk to other people who are doing the same thing," he told The Weekly Times.

"Garlic is a very fickle crop, so we're all learning from experience."

At the AGIA meeting, Mr Bell and retired South Australian grower Roger Schmitke were presented with life memberships, recognising more than 20 years of service.

Sandra Godwin |  August 9, 2012,