[28 January/Rural News]

Despite losing growing space to vineyards, Marlborough still maintains the title of New Zealand’s garlic king, producing about 70% of the country’s total crop. John Murphy, chief executive of Marlborough Garlic says the region can’t compete against the US and China in volume, but it can excel in quality, pointing to the brix (sugar) level of the garlic as the factor that sets it apart from that grown elsewhere. Ripe garlic cloves in Marlborough hit the 40 brix level, something almost impossible to achieve elsewhere in the world. Mr Murphy says it’s hard to tell what the contributing factors are, but believes it’s likely to be the same influences that impact on grapes, particularly sunshine, rainfall and soil. Marlborough Garlic has 80ha of garlic under production and harvests close to 7 tonnes/ha. He says this it is considered a reasonable yield worldwide although it is well below the 10 to 12 tonnes grown in other countries. Marlborough Garlic also produces Garlic Noir (Black Garlic) a diversification that Mr Murphy says is vital if they want to stay ahead of the pack, adding consumer research shows that its biggest attribute is its mystique… people don’t quite know what it is, but they are absolutely intrigued by it.