The Spanish onion season is underway with good prices, but with a stagnant demand, although sales appear to be reactivating as the Christmas period approaches.
The onion acreage in Spain for the 2023/2024 season grew by 15%, and the harvest has been between 10 and 12% higher than last year, but there is uncertainty both in Spain and in other producing countries about how the quality of the onions stored in warehouses will develop and to what extent this could affect the volumes and the capacity to keep up with the supply until the end of the season.
"The demand has been very quiet so far, but it appears to be reactivating a little since last week, ahead of the weeks leading up to Christmas and the New Year," said Luis Fernando Rubio, director of Procecam, the Association of Onion Producers of Castile-La Mancha. "The onion has been harvested, it is in storage, and there is no rush to sell, as it is clear that the market is not saturated. Prices are still good for the time of the year we are in. However, taking into account the high costs and the production available in the international markets, our sector isn't in the best position."
The poor shelf life of onions across Europe this season is, according to the director of Procecam, one of the keys in the development of the campaign. "Given this year's poor shelf life due to climatic adversities, we are uncertain about how things will stand by the end of the campaign, and whether there will be enough production, since the volumes in storage may not suffice to meet all the demand," he said.
"It is worth recalling that last year there was a stockout and we had to resort to imports. In fact, New Zealand has increased its acreage, which is an indicator that a strong import season is expected in Europe. Moreover, there are also export restrictions in Egypt, Turkey and India. It doesn't look like there will be a large production globally this year," he said.
In a season in which there is a sufficient supply of all sizes, with no abundance of larger sizes, the processing sector has seen its demand soar. "The demand from the industry is very high, so the batches that were affected by the heat waves are selling well, which is helping to ensure that there won't be any oversupply in the markets. We are seeing plenty of interest from the Horeca channel, which has fully recovered, compared to previous years. Meanwhile, household consumption does seem to have slowed down a little," said Luis Fernando Rubio.
The 3rd International Onion Sector Congress, organized by Procecam, was held on November 7 and 8 and was attended by 847 people; a few more than the approximately 600 of the previous edition. "We talked about various topics, such as new varieties, strategies in the management of diseases and pests, transport, international trade, market developments, or the management of internal damage. It has been a resounding success," said the director of this organization.