Thai people clearly love their garlic.

So loved is garlic in Thailand that it even relies on importing about 44,000 tons a year to keep up with its healthy appetite for the vegetable, with about 121,000 tons consumed within the country annually.

It is indeed a very important economic plant. But the huge demand for it has spurred smuggling by traders from neighboring countries.

This has now begun to cause suffering for local farmers because of falling prices.

To tackle this menace, Thailand's military has been called in to help.

Sky News reports that military officers are now working with the customs department and the commerce ministry to try to stamp out the smuggling, Boonyarit Kalayanamit, director-general of the internal trade department, said.

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Mr Boonyarit said the three departments were working together "to deal with the issue, particularly garlic smuggled from neighbouring countries".

Anybody found in possession or who moves imported garlic without a permit will face "at least five years" in prison, a fine of up to 140,000 baht (£3,280), or both, he added.

Thailand will produce about 84,000 tons of garlic this year, which is 10.6% higher than last year, due to an increase in growers, especially in the north.

The Thai government did not say which countries the smuggled goods are mainly coming from, but China, which is close but does not share a border, is the largest producer of garlic in the world.

The latest figures available show China was responsible for 72.8% of the world's garlic exports in 2016, with a value of £2 billion - ahead of Spain which is the second largest exporter, responsible for 11.4%.

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