Garlic prices in China have almost quadrupled in price since March, spurred on by falling production and fears about the H1N1 ‘swine flu’ virus.
This week The China Daily reported a high school in the eastern city of Hangzhou had bought 200 kg of garlic and was forcing students to eat it for lunch in an effort to keep them healthy.
Speaking from a Beijing vegetable market, 74-year-old Zhang Ping told Reuters that he hadn’t had a cold in years, and put it down to the medicinal properties of garlic.
"I don't know about H1N1, but it can prevent ordinary colds," he said.
In parts of Shandong Province, the wholesale price of garlic has risen by up to 40 times.
Some claim the price hike was due to speculative buying of garlic by wealthy coal mine bosses, but others say there are more obvious reasons for the trend.
Garlic prices were low last year, convincing many farmers it was not worth planting the crop again, a wholesale trader told the Nanfang Daily.
Supply could not keep pace with the surge in demand from home and abroad, sending prices skyrocketing.