Dutch onions export figures don't lie - levels have been much lower since January already. Nevertheless, Lindert Moerdijk of MSP Onions isn't complaining about the current demand. "We have our hands full. We can sort onions optically now. So, we're tapping into a market where there was previously no opportunities - European retail suppliers."
"The onions' quality is degrading. There are few good ones to be found. However, demand is increasingly shifting towards machine-graded onions. Our machine has 16 exits. We can, therefore, get 16 variants from a single batch. Beforehand, we thought this was too much. Now we realize that could be as many as 20."
"Buyers are catching on to the idea. They're ordering very specific size-quality ratios. Five and ten-millimeter gradings are no longer the exceptions. That's often linked to weight per onion. The machine quickly removes 20% of the onions suitable for Class I. The remaining 80% is then perfect for wholesale. That wouldn't be possible with manual sorting. This year's onions clearly have more problems with peel firmness. The machine can detect the smallest details in the skin. So we can anticipate that well," says Lindert.
"The entire market's demand is stable but lousy. We supply the usual African destinations. These include Guinea, Mauritania, and Congo. But otherwise, Europe's the main buyer. Bale price for regular onions is around €0.20. Local-for-local is becoming tremendously popular. It's extreme in Europe at the moment. In some countries, there are hardly any good onions. And still, people want local products. Some European retailers are only now switching to Dutch onions. That's for quality reasons.
Moerdijk is very optimistic about the coming season. "It's expected that five percent more onions will be sown. That's a significant expansion. But the Netherlands can also process a lot of onions. We proved that last autumn. It's cold now, and the season will start somewhat later. But the onions are healthy. Let the new season come."
"Last season, we only began in the new factory in September. This will be our first full season. Eqontrol is currently working with our operators. They're implementing Machine Learning in our factory. That means software will replace the operator's decisions. This is an amazing development to experience," concludes Lindert.