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Coronavirus and Global Trade


Coronavirus and Global Trade

Global trade is affected by myriad factors. The latest event to affect the international supply chain is the recent coronavirus that causes COVID-19. This novel virus has infected more than 80,000 people and killed more than 2,700.1 More cases are expected as the virus moves beyond its point of origin in China’s Hubei province to the rest of the world.

Resulting labor deficits and quarantine procedures could have major effects on production and shipping worldwide. Events like this one reinforce the need for companies to have detailed logistical plans in place to compensate for the shortages and delays that are likely to result.

Serious impacts expected

Worldwide health crises and other disasters have had significant effects on the global supply chain in the past. The comparatively minor outbreak of sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) identified in 2003, also originating in China, cost the global economy about $40 billion dollars.2

In the wake of such catastrophes as SARS; the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; Hurricane Katrina in 2005; and the meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in 2011, it is reasonable to expect that the coronavirus could have similarly long-reaching effects. Several factors are likely to exacerbate its impacts on global supply chain economics.

First, the outbreak occurred during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday, which took place between Jan. 25 and Feb. 4. Annually, this holiday precipitates what is considered the largest human migration on Earth over a period of about 40 days.3 Between early January and mid-February each year, hundreds of millions of Chinese people travel to visit relatives, much as Americans do during the Christmas holiday.

In an effort to slow the spread of the virus, many Lunar New Year celebrations were canceled, and the government issued travel bans4 and instituted a quarantine of millions of people, which prevents laborers from returning to work.5 The quarantine has had major effects on the labor force responsible for producing goods as well as loading and piloting the ships and planes used to transport goods all over the world.

The effects of the coronavirus outbreak might also affect the detente in the trade war between the United States and China signified by the signing of the “phase one” trade deal on Jan. 15. The new deal orchestrated by the administration of President Donald Trump promises $200 billion in sales to China.6 The coronavirus outbreak has the potential to impede these sales by creating a drag on the supply chain.

Identifying alternatives

Companies increasingly have attempted to anticipate the consequences of unexpected events on their suppliers and shippers. Disaster recovery plans have become an essential defense against the ramifications of these events.

While the production of these plans has become an industry in and of itself, all plans are not created equal. Some do not factor in delays in production and transport. A comprehensive disaster recovery plan needs to account for both. Merely hoping that problems will not rear their heads is no longer an adequate strategy.

In the case of the coronavirus outbreak, if a vendor relies on goods produced in China, it needs to have an alternative source of production. With a labor supply held up by quarantine procedures, it might be a while before production capabilities reach normal levels. The trade war has opened competitive production markets in Mexico, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia, among other places. Thus, there is little if any excuse not to have identified other production centers that can make up the shortfall in the event of a disaster.

Furthermore, it is imperative to assess whether transport services will have the capacity to ship existing inventory in the case of a crisis. If there is a backlog and a resulting lack of transport space, shipping costs might increase substantially. Delays in the wake of the Chinese Lunar New Year take place every year regardless, and in a time of crisis, delays will be even more marked. Establishing a plan with shipping partners for such events might not totally offset the cost increase. However, it can create space in the budget for it. Additionally, locating alternative routes and carriers ahead of time can allow companies to circumvent delays entirely.

While certainly expensive and complicated at the outset, disaster planning can pay dividends in the inevitable case of a major global crisis. Even if anticipated delays never manifest, planning for them might open new routes of production and shipping that ultimately can be used to increase efficiency during times of normal business operation.

Thinking ahead

Ample precedent exists for the alternative of no plan, which leads to an inability to meet demand and the financial consequences that result. Investors take note of such deficiencies and allocate funds accordingly. Developing an agile approach to anticipated problems will increase in importance as the global economy becomes more complex.

While the coronavirus outbreak continues, another disaster is already looming. The implementation of Brexit over the next year will have massive consequences in terms of customs and duty, taxation, and supply chain strategy. Getting ahead of this incipient crisis by anticipating its effects on the production and movement of goods can increase your company’s resilience.


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Pete Mento, Managing Director at Crowe LLP

+1 202 779 9907 or


1. Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes, and Veronica Rocha, “February 25 Coronavirus News,” CNN, Feb. 25, 2020,

2. World Health Organization, “SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome),”; William Feuer, “Coronavirus: The Hit to the Global Economy Will Be Worse Than SARS,”, Feb. 6, 2020,

3. Karla Cripps and Serenitie Wang, “World’s Largest Annual Human Migration Now Underway in China,” CNN, Jan. 23, 2019

4. “China Coronavirus Spread Is Accelerating, Xi Jinping Warns,” Jan. 26, 2020, BBC

5. Emily Feng, “45 Million Chinese Now Under Quarantine as Officials Try to Halt Coronavirus Spread,” NPR, Jan. 27, 2020,

6. James Palmer, “The ‘Phase One’ Trade Deal Is Still Hypothetical,” Foreign Policy, Jan. 15, 2020,


How the Coronavirus Outbreak in China May Affect the U.S. Garlic Market

The ongoing outbreak of coronavirus in China may affect garlic shipments into the U.S. and result in a shortage of garlic supplies, which firstly is to push the prices up. But then the question will arise: who will be able to compensate for this shortage and who will benefit from price increases?

Currently, near 30% of the U.S. garlic market is supplied by imports, which amounted to approx. 90K tonnes. 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.

According to the report  ‘U.S. – Garlic – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights’ by IndexBox, the revenue of the U.S. garlic market rose 6% in 2018 to $1.1B. This figure reflects the total revenues of producers and importers (excluding logistics costs, retail marketing costs, and retailers’ margins, which are to be included in the final consumer price). Driven by increasing demand for garlic in the U.S., the market is expected to continue an upward consumption trend over the next decade. Market performance is forecast to expand with an anticipated CAGR of +0.6% for the period from 2018 to 2030 (IndexBox estimates), which is projected to bring the market volume to 348K tonnes by the end of 2030.

Production in the U.S.

Garlic production in the U.S. stood at 237K tonnes in 2018, surging by 2.2% against the previous year. The total output volume increased at an average annual rate of +2.2% over the period from 2007 to 2018; however, the trend pattern indicated some noticeable fluctuations being recorded in certain years. Garlic production peaked in 2018 and is likely to continue its growth in the near future. Garlic output in the U.S. indicated a measured increase, which was largely conditioned by measured growth of the harvested area and a relatively flat trend pattern in yield figures.

Local garlic producers constitute the first-tier challengers to buoy the supply if imports from China plummet. Domestic production currently supplies over 70% of the U.S. market, and the output is growing gradually. Moreover, U.S. manufacturers have already benefited from the rise of the import tariffs implemented by President Trump’s administration because this at some extent relaxed the price pressure on the market. This, however, was not enough to provide the industry with strong growth impetus because any rapid expansion of the output is still hampered by tight pressure from cheaper and available imports from China.

Harvested Area in the U.S.

Garlic harvested area in the U.S. totaled 14K ha in 2018, surging by 2.9% against the previous year. The harvested area increased at an average annual rate of +2.9% over the period from 2007 to 2018; however, the trend pattern indicated some noticeable fluctuations being recorded over the period under review. Over the period under review, the harvested area dedicated to garlic production attained its maximum in 2018 and is likely to see steady growth in the immediate term.

Yield in the U.S.

Average yield of garlic in the U.S. stood at 17 tonne per ha in 2018, standing approx. at the previous year. Over the period under review, the garlic yield continues to indicate a relatively flat trend pattern.

Imports into the U.S.

In 2018, approx. 90K tonnes of garlic were imported into the U.S.; jumping by 4.9% against the previous year. Overall, garlic imports continue to indicate remarkable growth.  Over the period under review, garlic imports attained their peak figure in 2018 and are expected to retain its growth in the near future. In value terms, garlic imports stood at $203M (IndexBox estimates) in 2018.

Imports by Country

In 2018, China (57K tonnes) constituted the largest supplier of garlic to the U.S., accounting for a 63% share of total imports. Moreover, garlic imports from China exceeded the figures recorded by the second-largest supplier, Spain (13K tonnes), fivefold. Mexico (12K tonnes) ranked third in terms of total imports with a 13% share.

From 2007 to 2018, the average annual rate of growth in terms of volume from China amounted to -1.9%.

By contrast, imports from Spain posted solid gains over the last decade, and this country may also challenge to supply the market gap if Chinese supplies will drop. Mexico (+3.6% per year) also experienced a tangible increase in terms of imports. Moreover, Peru, Egypt, and Uzbekistan emerge as the most promising supplying countries (IndexBox estimates), as they boast both strong growth in terms of exports and affordable prices.

In value terms, China ($118M) constituted the largest supplier of garlic to the U.S., comprising 58% of total garlic imports. The second position in the ranking was occupied by Spain ($41M), with a 20% share of total imports. It was followed by Mexico, with a 12% share.

Import Prices by Country

The average garlic import price stood at $2,253 per tonne in 2018, remaining relatively unchanged against the previous year. Over the period under review, the garlic import price, however, continues to indicate a strong increase. Over the period under review, the average import prices for garlic reached their maximum at $2,537 per tonne in 2016; however, from 2017 to 2018, import prices stood at a somewhat lower figure.

Prices varied noticeably by the country of origin; the country with the highest price was Spain ($3,238 per tonne), while the price for Mexico ($1,942 per tonne) was amongst the lowest.

From 2007 to 2018, the most notable rate of growth in terms of prices was attained by Spain, while the prices for the other major suppliers experienced more modest paces of growth.

Source: IndexBox AI Platform