After a long period of drought that caused the water reserves to be significantly depleted, torrential rainfall has been recorded in recent days in the main onion producing areas of Spain, such as Murcia and Andalusia, and this has brought the harvesting of early onions to a halt. The supply has been more limited than usual for months, and although it now appeared to be slightly recovering, this situation will again accentuate the shortages and tension in the onion market.
"We desperately needed this water, but not like this, all at once," said Alfonso Tarazona, president of the Association of Onion Harvesters and Exporters (ACEC). "The early onion harvest started a few weeks ago, marked by the drought and the more limited irrigation resources, but now the harvests have stopped because it is impossible to access the fields, where there is still production to be harvested."
The demand has long been outstripping the supply. "With the early onion harvests in Andalusia, Murcia and Valencia, we have managed to ease the tension a little. Prices are still high and, with these rains, the market is again under pressure. Early onions cannot be stored for very long, which brings an added difficulty. They are normally sold on a daily basis," says Alfonso Tarazona.
According to the ACEC president, the acreage devoted to early onions was reduced this season due to irrigation restrictions imposed as a result of the drought. This has also happened, to a greater extent, with the later onions, the onions for storage. "Although the high prices in the markets have motivated some producers to transplant onions at the last minute, the truth is that, overall, the acreage devoted to onions will be reduced. Once the rains have passed, the final yields will be determined by the weather," he says.
"In no case do we expect a large onion production, but rather a difficult campaign across Europe in terms of supply, as the early harvest has been delayed in central Europe due to a colder and wetter spring than usual. Limited quantities are therefore expected to be available in June in the European markets," warns Alfonso Tarazona. He also mentions that "although prices are high at the moment, costs have risen dramatically. We've had several years with low prices and no profitability, and this, in combination with the drought, has discouraged many growers from continuing investing in the product."
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