The onion market in Europe has gone through some difficult years. The record heat and drought in the summer of 2018 resulted in an enormous shortage at the beginning of last year. While the situation in large parts of the continent stabilised again this year, nature again put onion and vegetable cultivation in Ukraine to a hard test last year.
The company Desento, based in Biljajiwka in the south of Ukraine, specialises in onions, but also grows many other vegetable products and cereals. Philipp Korsounski, the German-speaking sales manager, explains: "The company has a total of 260 hectares of cultivated land, of which about 150 hectares are irrigated. Our largest product is onions, with 70 hectares, but we have also sown carrots on 20 hectares, beets on 15 hectares, cabbage on 10 hectares, cauliflower on 15 hectares and sweet corn on 35 hectares. For berries we have allocated 6 hectares. Unfortunately, however, large amounts of rainfall and heavy hailstorms have destroyed large parts of our harvest."
The most serious failures were seen with regard to onions, comments Philipp: "In the summer of 2019, nature put us to a tough test. Rain and hail destroyed 30% of the onion crops and reduced the yield by 60%. Of the expected 4000 tons of onion harvest, we received only 1300 tons of onions of sufficient quality for further sale in supermarkets." Where goods could normally be sold at least until April, with sufficient refrigerated storage capacity all year round, there are now no significant quantities available.
After these heavy losses, at the end of 2019 the management decided to sell 50% of the farm to a partner with experience in vegetable production. "We are interested in a serious partner who is willing to work together with us to increase the production and quality of vegetable plants in the south of Ukraine," says Philipp. This way, the company hopes to build on the success of 2018.
"In 2018, we received the GLOBAL G.A.P. certification. More than 7,000 tons of our own products were sold, worth more than 1.3 million euros. The purchase of a sorting line for onions and beets with an automatic onion peeling machine gave us the opportunity to expand our customer base." In addition to all this, the company participated in the 2019 Fruit Logistica in Berlin, where many new contacts were made and new buyers for the goods were found. With great enthusiasm the company had expanded the drip irrigated vegetable cultivation areas by 15% in 2019.
The DESENTO team at Fruit Logistica 2019.
For the year 2020, the company hopes to acquire the necessary investments so that it can continue to play a pioneering role: "We are looking for a partner from the industry who really knows what it means to grow vegetables." The foundation has already been laid: "We are one of the most progressive companies in the Ukraine - there are only a few companies with sufficient cooling capacity to be able to offer goods all year round."
Investments are a sensitive issue in Ukraine, Philipp stated with some regrets: "Since interest rates here are almost unbearably high, only a few companies can invest in the future of vegetable growing. This ultimately also makes export opportunities more difficult. We have enough storage space for our entire harvest in an average year and export to Europe and also Africa."