Hans-Christophe Behr (AMI):

"Expected EU onion harvest 8% lower than last year at 5.5 million tonnes"

The current onion harvest figures in the main European production countries were presented by Hans-Christoph Behr of the German Agricultural Market Information (AMI) at the International Onion Congress in Middelburg. The figures showed that the total harvest in the 15 main European cultivation areas was 7% lower than in the previous year. In total the European onion harvest is 8% lower. All in all this is 500,000 tonnes less European onions. AMI predicts a EU harvest of 5.5 million tonnes this year. On average, however, there isn't an extremely low harvest. The harvest did start a lot later in almost all countries. The size sortings are a lot lower, mainly in South East Europe.

The predicted harvest in the Netherlands is expected to be at the same level as in 2014 (1,150,000 tonnes). In Spain the harvest is a lot lower at 1,108,000 tonnes / 2014: 1,334,000 tonnes last year, Germany has a lower production (471,000 tonnes / 2014: 500,000 tonnes), in France the onion cultivation is increasing (345,000 tonnes / 2014: 312,000 tonnes) in the United Kingdom the predicted harvest is equal to that of last year at 492,000 tonnes. The Danish yields are increasing slightly from 64,000 tonnes to 72,000 tonnes, whilst the Austrian onion production shrank from 201,000 tonnes to 152,000 tonnes. According to Behr there are questions surrounding the storage of the late, German onions and 20% is still on the field.

The area is mainly extending in Russia (+10%), Belgium (+10%), the Netherlands (+7%) and Austria (5%). Whilst Italy (-5%), the Ukraine (-4%), Sweden (-3%), Denmark (-2%) and Spain (-1%) show a decrease. Behr explained that the Russian area extension is a result of the high prices last season and the prospect of low competition due to the boycott and the devaluation of the ruble. He pointed out that the situation in Russia is largely dependent on the weather conditions, as most of the storage facilities aren't equipped for long storage, with frost losses reaching up to 50%.

In the Ukraine owners of private cooling houses bought onions to profit from the expected increase in price. Growers were actually reserved in selling. Between August and October there were two price increases. Behr indicates that a 'split market' is logical, with the price of the lower quality of onions remaining under pressure until Christmas, whereas the prices for the storage onions could go up.

Overseas in New Zealand there will likely be a slight delay due to a cold and wet spring. The area is estimated to be at a stable level and possibly a bit lower. According to Behr New Zealand onion exports to the European continent are important and continue to be strong, while the New Zealanders were also successful to open new markets in Asia. The United States has a 5% lower harvest. And in Brazil a country that imported a lot of onions from the Netherlands at the end of last season and the start of this season, has good prospects for the harvest in the south, expects an early harvest and is expanding the area by 6%. India had a huge scarcity in October due to the delayed start of the harvest in Maharashtra. Finally, for Mexico the US is the most important market by far.

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