Last year was a dramatic one for onions in Western Europe. This year’s prospects for the new harvest were considerably better. When farmers could irrigate, yields were higher. Onion production skyrocketed in the Netherlands. In Poland, for instance, they had a lot of trouble with dry weather this season.
Poland has a tradition of peeled onions for industrial processing. Source: Wichits, Dreamstime.com
The Dutch company, Jakova, has been providing onions for industrial processing like onion peeling since the late 1990s. This company gets most of its onions from Dutch, German, and Polish growers. “They usually have enough onions available in Poland. We often do nothing on that market,” says Jakov’s Hans van Kemenade.
“This year, however, there were limited onion plants and far fewer seed onions on the market. We, therefore, had to take an enormous amount of onions to Poland to supply the peeling companies there. This market situation will continue for a while, and I expect we will send more Dutch onions than normal to Poland.”
“It is not possible to say exactly how many fewer onions there are in Poland. In the Netherlands, we keep up to date with this, taking measurements in the fields several times. They do not do this in Poland, so no one knows exactly how much the harvest will yield. It is the same story when it comes to identifying market trends.”
They also do not have five-year averages like the Dutch do. There were also significant differences in yields from region to region. Where they had access to water, the yields were reasonable. When they could not irrigate, the yields are low. By regularly visiting the farms in Poland, we got a reasonably good picture of the yields there,” explains Hans.
“They still have enough stock lying in the Polish peeling plants' warehouses at the moment. They will slowly start using these. The Poles can, therefore, provide enough onions for themselves until March or April. After that, it is often usually the Netherlands’ turn to provide them with this product.”
“There is always competition from other countries. We saw this last year when it was so dry. Onions were coming our way from all every corner of the globe. I think that is a bit product-specific to onions and the Polish peeling companies, after all, traditionally provide the processing industry with onions,” says Van Kemenade.
The onion processing industry world remains a stable one. “Not much changes in the market. Clients who want cleaned onions come to the market every day. It is only the prices than cause the peaks and troughs in the industry. With the current high prices, we see that most traders had not built up too much stock. They are now supplementing this a little.”
“During the course of the season, the processing industry will demand more peeled onions again. Especially if the processed, frozen industry starts using onions in its production processes again. This usually occurs later in the season en then we expect prices to climb again. Industrial processors do not need onion of a specific size. Only mechanical processing benefits from a standard size onion. Manual peeling does not.”
“There are always challenges. Especially if we keep having low yields and have to go further and further afield to get the onions. If it were up to me, this will, of course, not happen. But, you do not really have control over this. That all depends on the weather and (Dutch weatherman) Gerrit Hiemstra,” concludes Hans.