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Charl van der Merwe – Môrester

Western Cape onions stand ready for exports

A cool spring, followed by a hot and dry summer: great weather leading up to the onion harvest a thousand meters above sea level, remarks Charl van der Merwe, marketing manager at Môrester Estate in Ceres.

In its mountainous surroundings, called the Koue Bokkeveld, the onion marketing campaign has just kicked off and will run until the middle of July, perhaps a bit later.

“We’d dearly like to export more onions than last year when we sent less than 10% of our crop to Europe, the UK and the Middle East,” Van der Merwe says, remarking that the Western Cape is keen to extend its onion export footprint.

“It’s one of the better years in terms of quality and shelf life. Volume-wise it will probably be around average.”

From the Northern Hemisphere, demand for large onions – 70mm diameter and up – is good, and he understands that there’s a scarcity on onions with a diameter of 90mm+.

“I think this is where we have an opportunity. We have good volumes of onions of the required size to supply demand from overseas buyers.”

Onion producers around Ceres haven’t reduced their onion acreage as a result of only being able to power half a pivot revolution. Onion lands are similar to the five year average.

“Over the past two years many of the guys geared themselves up to irrigate full pivot circles during loadshedding. They started installing generators and make use of alternative energy, which of course add to the production cost. But few farmers in this area leave onion hectares unplanted because of loadshedding.”

He observes that onion packhouses in the Koue Bokkeveld have mechanized to varying degrees, employing local or international technology, but no packhouse is fully mechanised at this stage.

For more information:

Charl van der Merwe
Môrester Estate
Tel: +27 23 316 1198