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Dutch supermarkets switching to imported onions later
The large European onion harvest has had its effect on imported onions this season. “We anticipated this and import programmes have been tailored to this. Everyone anticipated this situation, and planned fewer arrivals accordingly,” says Gerard Hoekman from Mulder Onions. “Supermarkets will only start switching late April, early May. Customers who start switching to the new harvest first are usually smaller supermarkets and high-quality supermarkets who will choose the 500-gramme packaging.”
“There’s some demand in places, but it’s not really worth mentioning. If only there were some fireworks! The old harvest is and will remain in a slump this season. The European onion trade is in the way in such a manner that no one dares to get import onions,” Gerard continues. “Besides, volumes are lower than planned, because it’s such bad weather in New Zealand currently – mid April – that the low volumes are expected to be even lower.”
“But that can only be a good thing for the market, there’s no reason to be nervous yet. Besides white onions from New Zealand, we’ll also get some from India and Australia, and a limited volume from Chile. We’ll also receive red onions from New Zealand and Egypt, but it’s all very limited,” Gerard concludes.
Early March, the overseas onion season started for Van der Lans International. The yellow onions from New Zealand arrived first, followed some weeks later by red onions, and by now, the yellow ones from Tasmania have also arrived. “Considering the amount of old harvest onions in Europe, we had fewer onions arriving at the start of the season. Supermarkets will switch to overseas onions later than in previous years. The first major programmes for new harvest yellow onions will follow. There’s a fair bit of interest in new harvest onions on the wholesalers markets, but considering the price difference with the old European harvest, most customers carry both overseas and local onions. Sales are a bit slower because of this,” says Jaap de Ruijg.
“The high-quality supermarkets often switch first, while discounters continue with the old harvest as long as possible. Last year that wasn’t possible because of the poorer quality of Dutch and German onions, but the product still looks good this year. Austrian retailers also prefer carrying Austrian onions year-round,” Jaap continues. He expects that shipments will be put on the back burner towards the end of the season because of the bad weather conditions in New Zealand during weeks 14 and 15. Production areas Hawkes Bay and the South Island in particular were affected by extreme precipitation.
Besides onions from New Zealand and Tasmania, the importer also receives white onions from Australia and yellow ones from Chile. “The white onions will arrive on an empty market. We import the small white onions in wooden bins of about 600 kilograms, so that the onions can be aired better, and the risk of damages is smaller when we pack them in smaller packaging. Larger sizes arrive in ten-kilogram bags. The white onions are popular with specialised sorting companies every year. The Chilean onions are selling well, despite the large harvest in Spain. Egyptian exporters can’t wait to start exporting the red onions, but because the early Egyptian onions are not as good, qualitatively, we’ve seen supermarkets continuing with red onions from New Zealand longer in recent years.”
“The situation in Europe isn’t great with its large stocks and worse and better qualities, resulting in a nontransparent market,” says Danny Deen from Denimpex. This season, the company imports white, red and yellow onions in various sizes and packaging from seven different origins again. “Normally, we start in March, but considering the situation in Europe, the season won’t properly start until May and June.”
“Import and European onions can’t be compared to each other. It has been the same in the trade since I was 17 years old. When I was asked, ‘why is this bale of Dutch onions selling for 4 guilder and this bale from New Zealand for 30 guilder?’ I could only answer that the European onions were old harvest and the import onions new harvest,” Danny says.
“Nowadays, it’s clear that people just switch from old to new harvest in certain countries. If just one defect is found with the old harvest, retail switches to new harvest just like that, for just one reason: higher sales per square metre in supermarkets,” the importer continues. “Considerably fewer overseas onions will come to Europe this season. Considering the bad weather in New Zealand, we’re talking about just a fraction of what’s normally exported to Europe from New Zealand, Tasmania, Australia, Mexico, Chile and India.”
“It’s estimated – and supported by export figures – that for the small pack not even a third will arrive of what’s normally imported, because many onions in New Zealand are no longer suitable for export because of the bad weather, and the same is true for Tasmania,” Danny explains. “Countries such as Argentina and South Africa haven’t played a role with export volumes to Europe for years now. These countries went down from a combined 60,000/MT, supplemented by Chilean onions with export volumes of 25,000/MT, to not even 5,000/MT.”
“Because of this, we can conclude that it has become a very specialised market of just a few players with a limited sales capacity during a short period. Because European quality improves, due to new varieties every year, exporting countries will gradually have to start looking for new markets if this trend continues.”
Van der Lans
Jaap de Ruijg
Van der Lans
Jaap de Ruijg
Publication date: 6/14/2017
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