Dutch onion exports are currently pretty much at a standstill. "Growers are asking for more than we can sell the bales for," begins Lindert Moerdijk of MSP Onions. Still, this onion processor is not complaining. "Our automated plant with optical sorting means we have stable work. At this time of year, we focus more on supplying retail suppliers. During the off-season, this branch is a great addition to the exports we've been doing to numerous destinations for years."
"Supermarkets are getting to know us now, and we've gained a foothold in stores in countries like Britain, Germany, Belgium, Poland, and France. We can program quality with a 99.9% certainty which has genuinely opened doors. I invite new customers to visit our location, where we go to the control room."
"There, we program the exact desired quality specifications, which we then also deliver. Especially for our retail clients, we've developed a big bag brand. Buyers are beginning to recognize that programmed quality, which boosts sales tremendously," Lindert explains.
"I feel Dutch supermarkets' view on sustainability is still very one-sided. They look very critically at cultivation but hardly at the process that follows. A BRC certificate suffices for that. If the onions no longer meet their standards after March/April, they easily switch to imported onions, which spend 30 days in transit. Fortunately, our customers increasingly realize more sustainable solutions are closer at hand."
"Last year, we could, thus, serve retail for a very long time. Supermarkets in the countries around the Netherlands are hugely focused on local-for-local. But once they can no longer source the desired quality of onions from their own country, they prefer optically graded Dutch onions over New Zealand onions that have been at sea for several weeks," continues Lindert.
He is not surprised that no other plants have been built according to the MSP blueprint. "When, say, French or German processors supply only local onions, you easily lack volume and certainty. Also, many packers are at supermarkets' mercy. We, though, always have a base with our exports. Export customers in Africa and Asia, for example, always return for our brand."
"They trust the quality and stock up more easily. They'd never do that if we sorted by hand because the quality's much more inconsistent. That's no longer an issue for us. That's also why we have ample work in this quieter period. Although, since there are 20% fewer onions available, our volume will inevitably be lower," says Moerdijk.
He adds that the next few months in the onion market should be very interesting. "Expectations are making things challenging. The Netherlands has a weekly grading capacity of over 40,000 tons. If that drops back to export weeks of 15,000 tons, some packers have very little to do. That sometimes creates an unusual game of musical chairs where all margins are thrown out to keep working."
"Growers aren't yet getting nervous about the lower export weeks. Some Dutch packers could learn a thing or two from that. It's more likely for 1,300 growers to agree than 30 packers," says Lindert. "With 20% fewer onions, large export volumes can't possibly continue, so our sector must scale back. Quality will determine when growers will begin offering their onions."
MSP will have its own stall at Fruit Logistica in Berlin for the first time. "Besides serving existing customers, this fair is perfect for meeting European supermarket representatives and their suppliers. We're looking forward to it and hope many visitors will drop by," concludes Lindert.
You can find the MSP Onions stand, E-24, in Hall 27.
For more information:
4455 TL, Nieuwdorp, NL