The onion export figures have been decent up till now. In week 43, Dutch exporters managed sales of 27,588 tonnes. “From week 27 we have had an average export of 21,600 tonnes. We have rarely exported such a large volume in this period,” says Chayenne Wiskerke from Wiskerke Onions. Yet this also has a downside, according to her. “We see overseas markets protecting local production through licences and/or export bans increasingly often, because these were glutted in recent years. Our goal is to meet demand together, and not push certain markets from our capacity, or we will shoot ourselves in the foot in the long term.”
“Panama is such an example; a great sales market. But if you see the extreme volumes that have been sent there in just a few weeks time, it becomes clear that we are upsetting local cultivators. We have to look beyond one week. That will make the market calmer, and ensure that you can continue exporting in the following weeks as well. It is good to realise an enormous export, but it remains an art to keep the markets balanced,” Wiskerke continues. That does not mean she is not looking back on the first half of the season with satisfaction. “Up till now, we, as the Netherlands, have already exported to 109 countries, sales therefore have been widespread.”
“We fortunately had an extremely good-quality product and a healthy demand. In recent weeks, onions were sent to Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and Europe is also playing a small part. We now see demand stabilising a bit, but weeks 46, 47 and 48 are traditionally a somewhat calmer period. I expect sales will continue to be good throughout the final weeks of the year. The bale price is at a stable level nowadays, around 18/19 cents, and for special destinations and larger sizes these could even be a bit higher.”
“It is still too early to look ahead to the second half of the season. We now have to deal with markets in Asia and Central America that are dropping out and switching to local production. The question is whether those countries will return in January. We also do not yet know when the African harvest will arrive and how good it will be. We should find that out in December and January. The harvest in India and China is looking good, and everything still has to start growing in New Zealand. Considering the weather extremes we had this year, with extreme drought, precipitation and earthquakes, it is still too early to draw any conclusions about this.”
Brazil, which has been a bulk buyer of Dutch onions in the last two years, is currently buying small volumes of yellow and red onions from the Netherlands. “That is not due to shortages, because they have enough local harvest and plenty of supply from neighbouring countries, but because our quality is structurally better. We are, in fact, a bit too expensive for them, but certain customers ask for exclusive quality, and combined with the extremely low transportation costs, we can, in a small way, join that market.
We have much competition from Spain, which also has a large harvest, (+30%), on the Brazilian market, and because of that, our prices are also competitive. I do not think Brazil will start demanding onions on the large scale seen in the previous two years, but we will have some opportunities during the second half of the season, because we have excellent quality.”
“Europe has plenty of onions, but that does not mean Dutch onions are not needed. The question is whether Eastern Europe has the right means and qualitatively sustainable onions to keep the product until the end of the season. That is when we will show up again, and why I see more opportunities in Eastern Europe later in the season, although volumes will not be similar to those of last year,” Wiskerke expects. “All in all, I do not feel negative about the situation. We will have plenty of opportunities for the second half of the season as well. The shipping tariffs are very competitive globally, and moreover, the quality of our onions is very good.”