By Derrick Lane

When comes to fighting symptoms of the flu, garlic has been one of the most go-to natural remedies around. Now more and more people are turning to it to even protect them from the new coronavirus. That, unfortunately, is making garlic prices go up.

Garlic is among the many commodities that have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak in China as it accounts for about 80 per cent of the world’s supply. Prices of the popular herb in the Indonesian capital have increased by nearly 70 per cent in the past one week amid concerns of a halt in shipments because of the virus outbreak.

China accounts for about 80 per cent of the world’s garlic supply, while Indonesia counts on the Asian country for 90 per cent of its imports. Concerns that coronavirus could lead to a halt in those shipments has spurred an almost 70 per cent surge in garlic prices in the capital Jakarta in just one week.

“Coronavirus has influenced market sentiment, causing sellers to abruptly lift prices,” said Abdullah Mansuri, head of the Indonesian Market Traders Association. “This occurred because we relied heavily on imports from a single country.”

Garlic is one of many commodities that have been rattled by the crisis in China as demand grows for everything from copper to jet fuel. And while garlic may not be high on the radar of the world’s financial markets, its use in Indonesian food is found in almost everything from sambal to nasi goreng relying on it. This directly results in inflation of garlic prices, like shallots and chili did last year.

Indonesia, the world’s top buyer, imports over 500,000 tons (453,590 tons) of garlic every year and is likely to be hit hardest by the potential supply risks from China. Retail prices have more than doubled in some markets to about 80,000 rupiah per kilogram (US$5,839 a ton) in the past weeks, said the Indonesian Market Traders Association.

Currently, near 30% of the U.S. garlic market is supplied by imports. From this amount, China constituted the largest supplier, accounting for 63% of total imports. In terms of domestic consumption, Chinese garlic holds a tangible share of 28% in the U.S market.

In 2018, nearly 100,000 tons of garlic were imported into the U.S.; jumping by 4.9% against the previous year. Overall, garlic imports continue to indicate remarkable growth.

As far as if it works against the coronavirus, garlic can actually boost your immune function.

Garlic contains compounds that help the immune system fight germs. Whole garlic contains a compound called alliin. When garlic is crushed or chewed, this compound turns into allicin (with a c), the main active ingredient in garlic.

These compounds have been shown to boost the disease-fighting response of some types of white blood cells in the body when they encounter viruses, such as the viruses that cause the common cold or flu.