“2020 is a year to be quickly forgotten,” says Joeri Ongena of Ongena onion peel company. “The corona crisis has had a significant impact on the demand for processed products, including sliced onion. In a normal year, the summer is great for us, but because many parties and barbecues were not allowed to take place, the demand for onion products has largely disappeared. Fortunately, we still had some sales with our skewers for the meat companies, but it was all much quieter than usual. ”
Ongena is satisfied with the onion harvest this year. “There is enough product available. The onion sets have turned out well and the size is very nice. Our storage onions have also been successful this year, but I fear that we will end up with an enormous stock, now that we are increasingly moving towards a partial lockdown. We cannot complain in terms of yield, but we are anxious to see what the crisis will bring. We recently purchased a second brochette line, but it has not been able to run much. The expansion of the buildings is also currently on hold. We would like to expand a little so that we can work more easily, but that is not going to happen for the time being. ”
“In winter we focus on onion products for prepared meals, such as soups and winter vegetables. However, at the beginning of the crisis, we noticed that during the lockdown people are spending more time at home and cooking for themselves, which means they are buying less processed vegetables. We do not expect the entire market to collapse, but it will probably be a lot quieter,” says Joeri.
A trend that has been ongoing for years is that more and more onions are grown in Belgium. “This is done for crop variety and growers will be looking for something new after the potato crisis this year. Initially, we are still arable farmers and we manage most of the onions that we process ourselves, from seed to storage in our barn. But for the onions that we have to buy extra, we are happy that we can work together with fellow growers in the region," says Joeri. For processing the onion, Joeri works with various varieties with which he has had good experiences. “We know which varieties to grow and which ones absolutely not to. The shape, the thickness of the skirt, the colour of the flesh are all sorted for. ”
Centrifuged onion cubes
In addition to the new line for cutting the skewers, Joeri also has a new line for centrifuged onion cubes. “These are onions for the frikandel special and such. The onion cubes keep much longer and are easy to sprinkle, because most of the juice has been extracted. An important point here is that you still have the aroma and full flavour of a freshly hand-cut onion. We found this to be one of the greatest requirements that this product must meet. It is a fresh onion cube, but it does not stick to your hands, making it an ideal product for the catering industry,” Joeri concludes.