China’s relationship with Africa is illustrated by garlic tensions

They live around 12 miles from the farm, so every morning they have to pay to jump on the back of a motorbike to get them here.

They arrive around 8 a.m. every day — except Sundays when they go to church — as any earlier in the morning is too cold to work on their plot of land. Whistling young men who sell lunch bags to farmers containing bread, milk and water drop by around 1 p.m., and the cousins continue to toil until around 5 p.m.

“Life is very hard,” Wahome said.

Wahome admits that he often struggles to support his five children due to the price of garlic fluctuating in the local market. The influx of Chinese produce hasn’t helped.

One pound of garlic earns farmers around 36 cents “when it’s good,” but that figure can be a low as 23 cents at times, according to Wahome.

Munyua is among the farmers so worried about the imported bulbs that they want the government to take action, as it did with fish last year.

“Chinese garlic should be taxed high so that the Kenyan farmer can earn something,” Munyua said.


Garlic is only part of the picture. Kenya exported $96.88 million in goods to China, but imported a total of $3.79 billion.

The Kenyan government’s horticultural crops directorate said supply and demand were among the factors when it comes to the availability of foreign garlic.

“As long as we don’t produce enough garlic, we may still continue buying garlic from China,” a spokesperson said, adding that the lack of sufficient farming knowledge and technology and limited machinery were also challenges in Kenya.

Kenya currently imports around 50 percent of its garlic, according to official statistics.