"César Ruescas: "The sector needs to unite to compete"

Growing global popularity of Spanish onions


César Ruescas, manager of Ruescas Export.

The onion campaign, as in the case of other horticultural products, has been affected by adverse weather conditions. The heat wave since May and the impact of storms have reduced the harvest volumes by between 20 and 30%, also with smaller calibres. "Retailers have paid high prices to producers due to the difficulty in finding large sizes," explains César Ruescas, of Ruescas Export, during a visit from FreshPlaza to the company's facilities in Valencia. "There will continue to be a shortage of large calibres until late in the campaign. If there are enough countries accepting medium calibres, there won't be problems," he adds.



The family business was founded by the Ruescas brothers 28 years ago, a second generation devoted to the onion sector. Today, they ship about 25 million kilos per year from their own fields, as well as from contracted growers and other third parties. Its sales are aimed both at wholesale markets and supermarkets. For Ruescas Export, the harvest season begins in April with short day onions (or Spring), moving on to Babosa onions in May and Medio Grano in June, closing the campaign between July and September with Grano onions. From September, Grano onions are kept in cold storage all winter.



They sell the product both at domestic and international level, with Europe as the main destination, although every year they ship to countries outside the EU, especially overseas. They also import onions from Chile to supply European supermarkets and sweet onions from Peru for their distribution in the Spanish market when the Spanish harvest ends.



Brazil, a market to take into account
"We started the campaign with great demand from Brazil, where we ship large volumes, but in September this came to a sudden halt with the arrival of the Brazilian local production, coinciding with the high price of Spanish onions. Right now, sales to this country, which demand mostly medium calibres (60-80), are once again on the rise."



The Netherlands, the great competitor in prices and volumes
During this break, Ruescas sought alternatives in onion-importing African countries. "These are countries with a very high consumption of onions, but it is very difficult to compete there due to the high market share of the Netherlands, which sells a cheaper onion that is better suited to the purchasing power of these countries," he affirms. "The sector needs to unite in order to gain bargaining power with logistics operators and be able to offer more competitive prices in these destinations."



According to César Ruescas, "Spanish onions are sold for most expensive prices than the Dutch, its main competitor, due to the low mechanization of our process and to the fact that it is a more delicate onion, with a sweeter flavour and a wider range of calibres, from 50 to 120 mm and more, while other competing European countries have small calibres. 



Demand for Spanish onions is growing
Spanish onions are gaining notoriety worldwide and demand is gradually increasing, according to César Ruescas. "Customers are starting to realise that hey are superior in terms of quality, with a smoother flavour than that of other competing onions. In Spain, consumption is also on the rise, as it is a staple product in the kitchen. The growth in the consumption of sweet onions for salads is also noteworthy."



The greatest threat to Spanish onions, according to César, is the fact that some European countries are increasing their production and the countries that have most recently joined the EU are becoming more competitive in terms of cultivation and marketing. It is also worth noting that the countries of the southern Mediterranean basin can freely introduce their exports without any phytosanitary controls at origin.

"I think there is potential for the onion sector, as long as we manage to adapt to the demands of the market, both in terms of new varieties and packaging formats, as well as food safety certificates like IFS, GLOBALGAP, Natur Choice, etc."


For more information:
César Ruescas
Ruescas Export, S.L.
T: +34 9612408907
comercial@ruescas.com
www.ruescas.com


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