“Things are looking good, but it’s too early to call the result!”

“Onion sales are going well right now,” Erik Waterman reports. “Luckily, the onions this year are of good quality, nicely coloured, and we’re currently ahead of last year’s sales by about 30,000 tonnes. But whether we’ll be able to maintain this sales rate remains to be seen. 70% of our onions are grown in Asia and Africa at the moment. While the Netherlands is currently able to profit from its strong position in markets overseas, that supply route will run out after the year’s end.”

CBS harvest forecast

Last week, the CBS (Statistics Netherlands) announced the provisional harvest forecast for 2016. The total acreage for sown onions amounts to 24,957 ha, 4.5% more than in 2015, when the total number was 23,890. CBS makes the total gross yield out to be 1,386,213 tonnes, using an average of 55.5 tonnes per hectare. This is 1.1% more than in 2015, when the total yield was 1,371,098 tonnes with an average of 57.4 tonnes per hectare. As always, opinions on these numbers differ significantly. The discussion about the average yield per hectare (55.5 tonnes for this year) is one that flares up again each year. The finalised numbers will be announced in January.

Good quality and prices

The quality of the onions this year ranges from fair to good, with little tare weight. “There are plenty of onions available, so the challenge for us right now is selling as many onions as possible overseas,” says Erik Waterman. “Asia and Africa are currently the best markets, with sizeable volumes. Brazil has had an excellent harvest itself this year, so we won’t be able to ship 110,000 tonnes overseas to Brazil like we did last year. It would be great if the Netherlands could manage to gain a footing in a few more sales areas, especially now that it is harder for us to sell onions within Europe due to the low prices in neighbouring countries.” Waterman feels that Dutch onion growers can’t complain regarding prices right now. “The prices being offered for field crop here are the same as those being offered for pre-sorted, packaged product in neighbouring countries. In short, there are plenty of challenges for everyone involved.”