Distinguishing yourself in a dense market with something as common as an onion, is by no means an easy feat. Still, it’s all in a day’s job for J.P. Beemsterboer Food Traders. "Ultimately, it always comes down to the price," says exporter Marco Lont. For years now, J.P. Beemsterboer has been remarkably successful in shipping the pink Crimsun concept to a variety of exciting destinations, like Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean. "People are definitely interested in new products, but you have to demonstrate why the onion is distinctive."

As far back as 2006, Beemsterboer (together with seed company Bejo Zaden and De Groot & Slot) introduced the pink Crimsun onion. Since then, the onion has done quite well in taking over the red onion market in Africa. "It's not just the color, but also the quality that is picked up by the market. Qualitatively, the Crimsun is sturdier than both the red and yellow onion. It allows you to make a difference. But you have to get customers to look at the quality rather than the price," says Marco.

Marco Lont, J.P. Beemsterboer Food Traders.

West African share in onion exports

Although Dutch onions are exported worldwide, the West African countries of Senegal, Ivory Coast and Mauritania still represent a substantial share of exports. Whether this is a risk, Marco finds difficult to estimate. "It could be tricky to limit your destinations, but in recent years we’ve seen a growth in export markets. Of course you need other outlets for total exports. The majority goes to Africa, but Central America and the Caribbean also take in considerable quantities of Dutch onions. Asia as well.”

"In addition, the list of export destinations grows a little each year. Indonesia is once again a destination for Dutch onions, and this year it was joined by Panama. As an exporter, we’re always on the lookout for shipping opportunities. Personally, I think we can still play a more significant role in the Middle East and Asia, and the same goes for South America. Brazil is a major player to be, but you still depend on the local harvest. So during your visits you continuously scan where the expansion possibilities are, but it's not easy to set up new markets on a whim."

With China and India, Asia boasts two giant onion producers. "You have to compete with those giants. We’ve been quite successful so far, with a product like the Crimsun, but it’s the price that matters with bulk shipments. We cannot export to China itself and I don’t expect India to become an importing country anytime soon. You could fill some gaps here and there, but nothing spectacular.”

The course of the current season still has some hurdles to overcome. "Figures for the first weeks were sky high, and there are some opportunities due to the low price levels. The question is what will happen if demand drops in Africa. The boycott has also lost us Russia as a customer. The effects are still difficult to estimate, but it will no doubt be a tricky year," the exporter concludes.

More information:
J.P. Beemsterboer Food Traders
Marco Lont
E: mlont@beemsterboer.nl
W: www.beemsterboer.nl