The late Easter week, winter-like weekends and a spring with good weather, as well as a tradition on the rise, which is arousing interest in other countries, have all led to the sale of "calçots" breaking all records in Mercabarna. This season, which started last November and is coming to a close this week, a total of 15 million units have been sold in Barcelona's wholesale market alone. This is the highest figure on record.
The extraordinary record achieved by these sweet onions adds to the growing exports, mostly shipped from the counties of Tarragona to destinations like the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and Germany.
According to the Associació Gremial d'Empresaris Majoristes de Fruites i Hortalisses de Barcelona and Província (AGEM), "for the first time this season, 15 million 'calçots' will be sold, exceeding last season's 14.3 million," reported the association of fruit and vegetable traders.
"We have been selling 'calçots' for years, but there has been a 'boom' since 2016. Growth has been gradual, and this year's success is something we did not expect," explains Eva Cano, fruit and vegetable wholesaler and manager, together with her sister Sonia, of the company Maleubre Cano. "It is a seasonal trend that is highly consolidated, but we have also seen a great increase of exports to Germany, Belgium, France and the United Kingdom," she said.
Mercabarna's "calçots" exports have grown by 10% this year, and it is expected that the season will come to an end with the export from Barcelona of between 20% and 22% of everything sold. "We have exceeded all expectations with exports; we already expected this upward trend, but we never imagined doubling the expected volumes," said Cano.
The success of this Catalan onion in London is due to the fact that "it is a 'gourmet' product. It is perceived as a rare sweet onion."
"It is a very sensitive product. During transport, it can, for example, be affected by rainfall, because of the humidity. It cannot be covered in plastic, because the leaf has to be kept in perfect condition." Most of these exported "calçots" end up in high-end vegetable stores and restaurants, where they are served and prepared in multiple ways.
One of the secrets sustaining the export of this product, despite its fragility, is the high financial profit obtained. A "calçot" that costs 15 cents a unit in Mercabarna can be sold for up to seven times more in London, and they are sold by units, instead of in bunches.