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Dutch onion area 65 per cent larger than in 2000

Onion exports in 2016 broke records. That means that attention paid to this cultivation is also increasing. Hopes for the future will also be high, and the demand for onions will increase. For the Netherlands, a doubling of the current production is the prospect until 2050. In 2016, more than one million tonnes of Dutch onions were sold in 120 countries. And the number of sales markets is still increasing, according to Gijbrecht Gunter, chairman of the Committee Onion Trade of the GroentenFruit Huis. Indonesia, Panama, Libya and Vietnam have already opened their borders, and a cooperation with the government is currently under way to open Costa Rica, Colombia and China for Dutch onions. 

Onion export in tonnes up to wk 46

The export of onions is increasing. The KCB (the Quality Control Agency) is keeping track of export statistics, and reports a growth of over ten per cent in 2016 compared to 2015. The export figures are based on exports in the 2016/17 season. It has indicated the most important export countries and the sales to these countries in this period.

Top  5 countries for onion export up to wk 46

Source: KCB

Senegal is one of the most important export countries for Dutch onions. The country produces its own onions, but is also very dependent on import. In order to protect their own production, the border is open for imported onions for several months. That is not a fixed period, but starts in August and lasts until February/March. In recent years, the call to increase own production in Senegal has been heard more regularly, but as yet, the country is still dependent on imports. Ivory Coast is also a major buyer of Dutch onions. Until week 46 of 2016, more than 50,000 tonnes of onions were sent to this African country, followed by the UK, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Export value onions
Expressed in the value of export, the picture for onions looks different from when it is expressed in quantities (Source: CBS). In value, Germany is the largest buyer of Dutch onions, followed by the UK and Senegal. Until 2015, Russia bought Dutch onions, mostly when prices were low. The boycott has led to Russia dropping out of the top ten of buyers. Newcomer Brazil is worthy of notice. That country bought Dutch onions in 2015, but in 2016, export to this country completely disappeared.

Most important export destinations

The Netherlands exported 64 million euro worth of onions to Germany in 2015, the UK was good for an export value of 52 million euro. Countries such as Belgium, Senegal, France, Russia and Ivory Coast are usually also in the list of ten most important export destinations. Brazil entered in fifth place with an export value of 30 million euro.

Area increasing
The increasing export also means that the onion area is increasing in size. The onion area has increased by 1.2 thousand hectares, and is 32.9 thousand hectares in total (Source: CBS). That is four per cent more than in 2015 and even 65 per cent more than in 2000. The surface for plant onions has increased in particular. The largest share of cultivated onions is meant for export.

Number of companies, total area and area per company

The onion sector is optimistic about the future. Gijsbrecht Gunter foresees a global production of more than 150 million tonnes of onions by 2050 in specialist journal Boerderij. For the Netherlands, that would mean a doubling compared to the current production. State Secretary Martijn van Dam also sees opportunities for the growth of export of the Dutch onion, he answered the Dutch Lower House in October. Van Dam: “The Netherlands accounts for 15 to 20 per cent of the global market as regards the onion export. The opportunities for higher returns are increasing due to the growing population of the world, and the increasing attention paid to eating healthy.”

Van Dam concludes that more than 90 per cent of the onions cultivated in the Netherlands is exported. The Netherlands has a good international market position because of the high quality and the relatively low price for onions and the good agricultural logistics. “The strong international position of the Dutch onion, however, cannot be taken for granted. It constantly asks for innovations within the various links in the supply chain in order to continue to deliver good and reliable quality. Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important theme. It is therefore important to show a recognisable, Dutch face in this field.”

The State Secretary indicates that the cabinet is dedicating itself to the stimulation of export of Dutch agriculture and horticulture in his answers to the Lower House. During this cabinet period there were 92 trade missions to 107 countries. Never before have there been this many trade missions during one cabinet period.    

Source: Agroberichten Buitenland

Publication date: 1/10/2017


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