GROWERS ADDRESS LABOR ISSUES AND LINGERING EFFECTS OF E. COLI OUTBREAK

Henry Gonzales, agricultural commissioner for Monterey County, the nation’s “salad bowl,” which includes Salinas, oversees its $4.4 billion agriculture industry. Growers, Gonzales said, are taking drastic measures to address the continued labor shortage — one of the biggest issues, Gonzales added. They are increasingly turning to the H-2A program to find workers, and taking housing into their own hands to supply workers with affordable places to live. Measures include renting whole hotels for a season to house their workers, while others have built hundreds of housing units — replete with laundry rooms and soccer fields, he said. Other growers have bought apartment complexes. “Because of the crops we grow — the spring crops and berries — there’s so much hand labor, you have to have farm workers, and if you have to have workers, you have to have housing,” he said.

 

He will also be looking to see whether romaine lettuce acreage dropped for the 2018 fall crop, which could suggest growers reacted to the 2018 romaine-related E. coli outbreaks with fewer plantings. Romaine accounts for about 60% of the county’s leaf lettuce category, Gonzales said, which, with a value of $830 million in 2017, was the county’s most valuable crop. “Growers may look to grow other crops than romaine,” he said. “But when they do that, it impacts other crops as well.”

 

[Growers of] red and green leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, cauliflower, and broccolini, among other crops, are feeling a ripple effect from last year’s multistate E. coli outbreaks and subsequent recalls.

 

Some Customers demand that the produce be tested by laboratories against contamination. Growers say they are also noticing more governmental inspectors, and growers have taken measures to protect the fields from potential outside factors, including installing 13-foot fences and hiring guards to walk around the crops at night.

 

The California Department of Food and Agriculture announced in February that they would begin on-farm inspections at large farms — those with $500,000 or more in sales — starting in April under guidelines going into effect this year to validate compliance with the Produce Safety Rule of the federal Food Safety Modernization Act.

 

Information taken from The Packer, 03/15/19

Rough winter could cause vegetable supply hiccups

A winter of rain, occasional hail and cold temperatures across California will likely throw wrenches into this year’s spring vegetable supplies, growers say.

 

Salinas-based D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of California grows broccoli, cauliflower, and head lettuce under the Andy Boy label and other crops on 40,000 acres, said Claudia Pizarro-Villalobos, marketing, and culinary manager for D’Arrigo.

 

The company grows spring vegetables in Brawley, Calif.; Yuma, Ariz.; and Mexico from November through March, and then grows in the Salinas Valley from March through November, she said.

 

“At this point, our quality looks good, but with the excess rain we have received the last few weeks, we feel the quality and transition to the Salinas Valley will impact the supplies in early spring,” Pizarro-Villalobos said.

 

She expects broccoli to begin in Salinas Valley the week of March 18, cauliflower around March 23, and head lettuce the week of April 15.

 

Production volumes were steady last year, she said, and she expects the same this year.

 

Cooler temperatures and rain are causing issues in both growing areas for Salinas-based Coastline Family Farms.

 

The grower began harvesting broccolicauliflower, green and red leaf lettuce and butter, iceberg and romaine lettuces in mid- to late November mostly in Brawley, and that should finish around late March or so, said Mark McBride, a salesman.

 

Harvesting in Salinas should begin in mid- to late April, with romaine and iceberg lettuce around April 15, he said.

 

“It’s been a long time since winter has been as wet and cold as we had this year,” he said. “We anticipate volumes to be less consistent, and definitely more erratic.”

 

Acreage is similar to last year’s, he said.

 

Like other growers, Salinas-based The Nunes Co. Inc. has been harvesting its romaine lettuce, romaine hearts, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, iceberg, red and green leaf lettuce, and asparagus from its Yuma growing fields, said Doug Clausen, sales manager.

 

He expected to start harvesting broccoli and cauliflower in Salinas in early to mid-March, and iceberg and red and green leaf lettuces in April.

 

Production volumes were steady last year, but this year is too early to tell, Clausen said, particularly because of the weather.

 

“Everything has been a little bit behind,” he said. “So, it could be a very difficult transition between Yuma and Salinas. And Yuma was impacted as well (from the weather).”

 

Lettuce is a substantial player in the $4.4 billion agriculture industry in Salinas’ Monterey County. Leaf lettuce, the No. 1 crop in 2017, was valued at $830 million, while head lettuce was $503 million, according to the county’s most recent crop report.

 

Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales said the rain has “put a damper” on initial plantings. Some growers, though, slipped planting in between February rainstorms.

 

Celery is the hot topic these days, said Russ Widerburg, sales manager for Oxnard, Calif.-based Boskovich Farms. Celery started in early November and he expects it to last through the spring.

 

Cartons of 24 or 30 bunches have been selling for $30-40 this year, Widerburg said, compared to last year’s average price of $10-11.

 

“It’s a popular conversation because the market has been so strong since it started,” he said.

 

Boskovich also grows romaine lettuce and a small amount of iceberg lettuce.

 

Oxnard has had frequent rain and cold temperatures this season, and that will cause issues, Widerburg said.

 

Oxnard has received 11.4 inches of rain since October, 151% of normal for the period to date as of Feb. 24, according to the National Weather Service.

 

“You miss plantings because you can’t prep the ground as normal,” Widerburg said. “You will see planting gaps into the spring that will cause shortages and inconsistency in supplies.”

 

Ventura County led the state in celery production in 2017, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. In the county, the vegetable was valued at over $210 million that year from about 13,200 acres, according to the county’s crop report.

 

Lompoc, Calif., has also had unseasonably cold conditions.

 

Jose Gonzalez, who handles sales for Lompoc-based Big E Produce, said morning temperatures have been around 30-32 degrees and it has hailed and rained.

 

That has upset the normal planting schedules, he added. Broccolini planted between Irvine, Calif., and Santa Ana, Calif., got soaked and decay set in.

 

The company also grows cauliflower, celery, red and green leaf lettuce and romaine. Harvest overall will likely get pushed back to the second week of April from its typical end-of-March start date, Gonzalez said.

 

Production, which was decent last year, will also probably be lower.

 

“You’re going to see prices increase, shortages and gaps,” industry-wide, Gonzalez said. “It’s going to be crazy this year.”

 

By The Packer Staff

Apple growers share labor, trade concerns on Capitol Hill

Apple growers from across the country participated in the U.S. Apple Association’s Capitol Hill Day, meeting with more than 100 legislative offices on trade, labor, and farm bill issues.

 

More than 90 growers were in Washington, D.C., for the annual event on March 13.

 

A top priority is the ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, according to a news release. Like its North American Free Trade Agreement predecessor, the USMCA keeps access to Mexico and Canada duty-free. Due to NAFTA, Mexico is the largest export market for U.S. apples, followed by Canada, according to the release.

 

Exports to those two markets are almost $450 million a year.

 

The apple industry is also asking the Trump administration to remove tariffs on steel an aluminum, a move that resulted in a 20% retaliatory tariff on apples to Mexico. According to the apple association, that’s caused $300 million in export losses.

 

“One out of every three apples is exported, and duty-free access to Mexico and Canada has been a tremendous benefit for the U.S. apple industry,” U.S. Apple Association President and CEO Jim Bair said in the release. “Unfortunately, because of the section 232 tariffs, Mexico has unleashed a significant retaliatory tariff on our growers, costing the industry millions of dollars in export losses. It’s imperative that section 232 tariffs are removed and the USMCA ratified.”

 

Like many groups representing fruit and vegetable growers, the apple association is seeking legislation to provide an “adequate and predictable” supply of labor, and a reformed or replaced H-2A guest worker program.

 

by Ckoger@farmjournal.com

Celery Market Report

Celery market this week has escalated to mid-$50 level. Factors creating this high market include lighter plantings and weather. Growers reduced acreage a bit this year due to losses on celery in recent years. And then, the weather. In Florida they have had relatively minor affects from adverse weather, but where acreage was cut back slightly already, it has left those Florida growers with limited volume to cover contracts only. Historically, when weather hits the west coast hard, Florida can take up some slack-but not this year. In the west, growers cut back celery acreage across the board. Now, Arizona has finished up, and Imperial and Coachella Valleys will finish by end of this month. Everyone will be looking to Oxnard for supply. Unfortunately, of all growing areas, Oxnard has been hit the hardest by rain and high winds. Some plants were knocked down and destroyed by wind and rain. Others have survived but in poor quality with yields reduced by, in one reported case, up to 30%. We will struggle throughout the Oxnard season which will be through the month of May. Growers are now planting in Salinas for usual start date of June 1st. Whether there will be planting gaps caused by spring rains in Salinas is yet to be seen, but for now, we can expect shortages and high prices to continue through May.

March 13, 2019

IPG Reporting

Grapefruit Market

OVERVIEW GLOBAL GRAPEFRUIT MARKET

Florida grapefruit, which is considered the best of its kind in many countries, is still available. Globally, however, traders lament that the total production volume is gradually falling each year, mostly as a result of citrus greening and the weather conditions. Most of the grapefruit currently on the market comes from Israel, Turkey and Spain, where the acreage is expanding.

US: Good Florida grapefruit season lasting longer

Even now that the Florida grapefruit season is about to end, there is still product available. “Just like around this time last year, the supply is relatively large. This year, we are even managing to continue a few weeks longer. The only issue is that the sizes have been a bit disappointing,” says a trader. Currently, all growing areas in Florida are in production. In the domestic market, the biggest competitor is Texas. Internationally, this role is played by Turkey and Israel.

The large supply is accompanied by a high demand, both on the domestic and on the export market. “The export period is as good as finished, so more grapefruit is now being sold in the domestic market. This could lead to growing price pressure in the coming weeks.” The trader adds that “so far, the sector has managed to maintain a good balance between supply and demand in the markets.” The fact that things are going well in the grapefruit market is welcome news, since consumption is falling.

Citrus greening is a challenging threat for the sector. “Because of this disease, it is difficult to grow a profitable crop. We spend twice as much on protective equipment and have to do with half of the volumes. There have been some developments, but there is no real solution yet. New, more resistant varieties should soon be available; nevertheless, many growers refuse to plant them before they prove to be reliable.” The list includes the varieties Summer Gold, Foster Pink and Pummelette.

 

Israel: South African competition making things tough

The Israeli grapefruit season had a difficult start, with strong competition from South Africa. The South Africans exported so much grapefruit that China and Europe stopped importing Israeli products. In Israel, the cold stores were full and the prices dropped to 16 USD for a 15 kg box. Israeli growers even doubted whether they should harvest their fruit or wait for prices to increase.

In early 2019, the South African grapefruit export season came to an end. Since then, the demand for Israeli products has increased. In addition to Europe and China, the fruit is mainly exported to Hong Kong and Singapore. Prices oscillate between 22 and 23 USD for a 15 kg box. The most popular Israeli variety is the Sunrise grapefruit, which accounts for 30 – 35% of total exports. The season is expected to last at least until the end of April with a run-out to the end of May.

Spain: Lower volumes do not bring expected price increase

So far, 65% of the total Spanish production has been harvested. This means the peak of the season is over. Production is about 20% lower than last year, but this has caused prices to rise less than expected. The sizes are smaller this year because of the lack of rainfall. Competition from Turkey is also stronger this year, especially in Eastern European countries. According to a trader, Turkey is trying to extend the grapefruit season and it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep prices high.

The most cultivated variety in Spain is the Star Ruby, along with other red varieties. White varieties are becoming increasingly rare and are now difficult to find. As soon as the Spanish season is over, most traders switch to imports from South Africa.

The Netherlands: Consequences of hurricane Irma still affect supply of Florida grapefruit

Florida grapefruit is still known in the European import sector as ‘top of the bill’. The big problem is that the supply is becoming increasingly limited. While the State was still able to supply 60 million boxes of grapefruit more than 20 years ago, last year the total volume stood at 3.5 million boxes. Citrus greening has left its mark in the past few years, but last year growers have also suffered from the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, which means that hardly any large sizes have been shipped to Europe.

At the moment, there is still some supply of Florida grapefruit. The last arrivals are expected In week 12. Prices for sizes 48/56 amount to around 23 to 27 Euro for the Star Ruby variety, while the price of the Ruby Red is about one Euro lower. For the white variety, the price amounts to 22.50 / 23.50 Euro (15 kg). According to importers, sales are going well and they have even recorded a boost this week. For next year, growers hope there will be more large sizes available, as these are eagerly demanded in Eastern Europe.

Within Europe, France is the largest buyer of Florida grapefruit, followed closely by the Netherlands, Belgium and the Scandinavian countries. Besides Florida, there is currently some supply of grapefruit from the Mediterranean production countries, such as Spain and Turkey. The Spanish supply in particular is on the rise. There is a large enough supply from those countries available, which results in prices standing at 10-12 Euro per 15 kilos.

France: Shortage of good quality grapefruit

There is a slight shortage on the French market. “There is almost no Turkish production on the market anymore, but there is still some Spanish, Israeli and Florida grapefruit,” says a trader. The price differences between those origins are great. “The price for Spanish grapefruit, for example, ranges between € 10 and € 11 for a box with 48 pieces. Israeli grapefruit is a lot more expensive and is sold for about € 16. Florida tops the ranking, with a price of € 25.44 per box. “Both supermarkets and consumers are willing to pay a higher price for the Florida grapefruit. It remains the best grapefruit in the world and in a gastronomic country like France, taste is extremely important. Even small children find it tasty.”

The trader laments the annual decline in the production volume of Florida grapefruit. “The trees are suffering the impact of diseases and the climatic conditions. When I started in the citrus business 18 years ago, there were 10 exporters of Florida grapefruit. Now there are only 3. Due to the declining production, the volumes on the French market have also declined sharply. More than half of the grapefruit that is currently available in France comes from other origins and is not as tasty, so consumption is falling. Consumers won’t buy that grapefruit a second time.”

Italy: Cyprus and Turkey are important suppliers

Grapefruit is not a big product on the Italian wholesale markets. It does better in retail and hospitality. A wholesaler also says that there is no strong demand for grapefruit from his customers. “For us it is only a small product. The fruit is imported from Spain, Israel, Turkey, Cyprus, South Africa and Florida. There are also small growing areas in Sicily. In recent years, Turkey and Cyprus have taken a growing share of the Italian market.” The wholesaler says that grapefruit is widely used in the catering industry for juices.

Pink grapefruit has become increasingly important in recent years, compared to traditional grapefruit. “In the summer, we import it from South Africa and Florida, despite the fact that the American fruit sometimes shows irregularities on the skin. I recently sold top quality Spanish grapefruit, nicely packaged, for € 1 per kilo. Normally, the prices around this period are lower.”

China: Limited supply results in high prices

There is not a lot of grapefruit available on the Chinese market. At the moment, the supply is low, which results in a higher price. China is currently importing mainly from Egypt, Spain and Israel. New batches are expected to arrive from April, which will ultimately bring the price down somewhat. Furthermore, the Chinese pomelo season is over. Due to the disappointing sizes this season, the export was more difficult. Most importing countries prefer small pomelos, but the ones grown this year were mostly large. Due to the favorable weather conditions, the pomelos were larger than expected.

Germany: Unstable results this season

So far, the German grapefruit market has been going through an unstable season: The supply from Florida left much to be desired this year, partly due to the small harvest and strong demand from the domestic and Canadian markets. The price for export goods reached a record high around the Christmas period, after which the prices fell slightly. At present, Turkey and Spain dominate the German market, mainly with the Ruby Red variety. Despite the moderate harvest in Turkey, grapefruit sales on the Western European market are developing as expected, according to a trader.

Organic grapefruit is also sold relatively quickly on the German market. In this segment, the supply currently comes mainly from Greece. The price for Greek organic grapefruit has stabilized somewhat in recent years; however, specialized importers are also keeping an eye on Israel, which focuses heavily on sweeter varieties (Sweet), instead of the bitter Greek varieties. The advantage, however, is that the Israelis market their products mainly around Christmas, while the Greeks deliver the biggest volumes later in the season.

South Africa: Harvest in two weeks

It’s very early in the South African grapefruit season, with no harvesting yet. In the very north of the country producers could start in about two weeks. The national estimate will be discussed coming Tuesday at the biannual citrus summit. Producers in the far north have noted that size looks better, closer to market requirements and the hopeful expectation of a smoother overlap between the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. The earliest South African grapefruit arrive on market by approximately mid-April.

“We hope that supply from the Northern Hemisphere doesn’t run out before we reach the market because then you have to buy back shelf space,” one trader said. There are already shaddock (locally called pompelmoes) available, a niche fruit for local consumption.

Publication date : 3/8/2019
© FreshPlaza.com

Will Rains Cause Delay

Will the rains cause the Salinas season to be delayed?

Persistent, heavy rainfall has stationed itself over California since January, especially along coastal areas. It has now come to a point where growers are starting to question if this will affect the start of the Salinas growing season for the major vegetable commodities. What is known is that a high market persists thanks to colder weather in the desert growing regions.

“We are [currently] in an extremely high market on the top five commodities of lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, celery and leafy greens,” said Jason Lathos of Church Brothers Farms. “On celery and cauliflower, we are seeing prices of $40 and up and it’s all been because of the colder weather conditions. Along the coast from Santa Maria up to Salinas it has been very wet. Salinas has rain in the forecast for the next ten days and it’s been like that since we started planting at the beginning of the year.”

Lathos added that time will tell whether or not the start of the Salinas season will be delayed. “The big question on everybody’s mind is what will happen in April when we all start coming back from the desert? If the weather continues in this manner, there is likely to be disruption. However, if we see warmer and sunnier conditions sooner, there may be little or no effect. Currently, the rain is likely to be affecting the preparation work in the fields for the upcoming harvest season.”


Mixed lettuce field near Salinas. Image: Coke Farm


Image: Coke Farm

Hardy winter crops doing fine

Of course, Salinas is not entirely devoid of crops at this time of year. Several growers are active in this area, particularly those growing root vegetables and other winter crops. These crops typically handle rain well and growers are reporting few problems for these other than production delays due to the difficulties surrounding harvesting equipment accessing the fields.

“Overall, the rain has been a positive for us as we desperately need it,” noted Angela Griggs of Coke Farm, an organic grower in San Juan Bautista just north of Salinas. “The winter crops that we have in production now are all holding up well, including carrots, beets, turnips and radishes. We have however, had to stop harvesting on a couple of days.”

Griggs also noted that the upcoming spring and summer crops have been delayed. “It’s great to have the water but it is putting some of the plantings back for our broccoli, cauliflower, celery and lettuce crops,” she said. “At the moment, we are at least two to three weeks, maybe even four weeks, behind schedule on these items.”


Image: California Giant Berry Farms

Strawberries also impacted

The strawberry season has certainly had its share of challenges and the rain is simply another continuation of the tough season growers have had. Cindy Jewell of California Giant Berry Farms, noted in her weekly market update that production has been impeded by the rain. “It has been a very wet winter for California with more rain in the forecast this week – predominantly in our Salinas-Watsonville regions. Some showers will sweep Oxnard and Santa Maria, however nothing that looks very significant at this time,” she said.

Overall, the company is reporting that quality remains good and with spring on the way, they are hopeful that warmer conditions are coming soon. “Crop quality is holding up and looking good in our Oxnard region despite recent storms and cool temperatures,” Jewell shared. “Santa Maria has been hit slightly harder in the last few weeks, with a hail storm sweeping the region a few days ago. We are diligently cleaning fields and assessing rain damage and only packing the best quality fruit in the meantime. Spring is only a few weeks away and we’re hopeful for crisp, clear skies and sunnier days ahead with more volume to come from our local Watsonville-Salinas regions very soon.”

Publication date : 3/1/2019
Author: Dennis Rettke 
© FreshPlaza.com

Broccoli Production

Broccoli production might gap again before Salinas season

Mixed weather patterns in both the Californian and Mexican growing regions have caused broccoli production to enter a gap. Growers say warm weather in Mexico bunched up production earlier. At the same time, California was being hit by a spell of cool and wet weather. This has resulted in the gap after production was delayed by both the slower growing conditions and impeded harvesting in California.

“We are still in the middle of the Mexican season, but production will wrap up in Bajio in about a month’s time and supplies will not be so boisterous after that. At the end of March, we will transition to northern parts of Guanajuato where yields are looking down at the moment. Things can change between now and then but it’s probably fair to say that we are [now] past the peak of the Mexico season…”

 

[There are supplies from] Santa Maria at this time of year as well, where rain has resulted in issues with harvesting. “There has been a lot of rain and cold weather in California, with some areas receiving record precipitation,” [cited] “We couldn’t even harvest until the end of last week [in Santa Maria] and we have to be selective in what we do harvest, filtering out broccoli that have succumbed to moisture-related issues. Additionally, the product has to be dried before it can be put on ice and shipped. Even with shipping, we are not letting this product be shipped as far away [as usual].”

Market has not risen as quickly as expected 

With all the weather-related production issues, the market had been expected to rise sharply. However, growers say this has not been the case and while prices have gone up, they have not increased as rapidly as expected.

“The market has been very dynamic this past week. Prices have definitely gone up at the border, but not quite as fast as initially expected. Product availability at the border has decreased since last week but is still producing more than the other growing regions. For California, last week prices were in the mid-teens and up as high as $20 [FOB]. On Monday, prices were sitting at $18.15 FOB, and we were sold out due to very strong demand.”

…the market is likely to remain strong as the California season gains momentum. This is because although production will increase in some areas, there are questions surrounding the start of the Salinas season, with some growers predicting a gap before the season starts. Santa Maria should increase production by the end of this week. Some desert growers are wrapping up now, but there [are] some that will continue production. However, overall, volume will be lower from [the desert]. Some of these growers will transition to Salinas, however there looks to be a gap before Salinas can start up. They have had even more rain than Santa Maria so it is unknown how quality will be when it does start up.

Content taken from article noted below:

Publication date : 2/28/2019 
Author: Dennis Rettke 
© FreshPlaza.com

Orange Crop

California valencia orange crop on par with past season

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is forecasting the California valencia orange crop at 19 million 40-pound cartons.

The USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service, using data from its California branch, in cooperation with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, released the estimate March 8. The 19-million carton estimate is the same as the final utilized production of valencias in the 2017-18 season, according to the report.

The results are from the Valencia Orange Objective Measurement Survey, conducted throughout February. Estimated fruit set per tree, fruit diameter, trees per acre, bearing acreage and oranges per carton are considered in the statistical models used to estimate production, according to the report.

The state’s bearing acreage is 29,000, the same as the most recent season.

The growing season had mostly dry weather early, but rainy throughout February. The average number of fruit per tree, 573, is 9% more than last season, and above the five-year average of 568, according to the report.

Fruit diameter, however, is slightly below the five-year average.

Data was collected from 349 groves, primarily in Tulare, Kern, Fresno, Ventura and San Diego counties.

Onion Overview

OVERVIEW GLOBAL ONION MARKET

Where are the onions? This is the question that many onion traders around the world have been asking. As a result of the dry, hot summer in Europe, the harvest in the north of the continent is much smaller. In the US, the rain in the late summer had a similar effect on the harvest figures. Onion prices are on the rise worldwide and new trade relations are emerging. For example, China is exporting to Europe and this is a new trade flow. Other countries, such as Kyrgyzstan, are trying to get a slice of this demanding market.

The Netherlands: Extreme onion season with small harvest and high prices

Dutch onion exporters are having a remarkable year. Due to the limited harvest as a result of the dry weather, the available stocks are considerably smaller. In the third week of 2019, the total volume shipped exceeded 600,000 tons, so more than 20,000 tons had been exported per week at high prices. Due to the high price of Dutch onions and the lower yield in Europe (1.2 million tons lower), Chinese onions are currently on the market. New Zealand, Chilean, Argentinian, South African and Egyptian onions will also soon reach the European market to compensate for the shortages. Currently, the demand from overseas destinations is shifting to Europe.

Italian growers benefit from a good market

The price is right and there are enough onions in storage for a month, but that is thanks to imports, which compensate for the shortage of Italian onions. A grower tells us that he sows 40 hectares every year. He had a good harvest last year. “The price was right from the start of the season and then increased due to the shortages in some Northern European countries,” he says. Production in Italy was similar to that of previous years, which has given growers an advantage. “Prices started at 0.25 Euro/kg for the yellow and 0.30 Euro/kg for the red. This applies, of course, to the onions with the best size and quality.”

In recent weeks, onions have been imported from France and Austria to supplement the Italian harvest. According to a trader, the onions in Big Bags can yield up to 0.60 Euro/kg. “I still have some domestic production available. The larger sizes are sold for 0.50 Euro/kg. “He does not expect any major changes for the coming season. “I have spoken to a few seed traders and so far they have not registered a significant increase in sales, but there is still time.”

Another trader says that there are Italian growers who store the harvest and speculate to obtain higher prices. “It’s true that we have to make up for last year’s losses, but it doesn’t make any sense to hold on to the stock now that the import season is starting.” On the wholesale market, yellow onions are sold for up to 0.70 Euro/kg and shallots reach up to 1.75 Euro/kg. “We had not seen such prices in the past 10 years. In 2018, we got 0.30 Euro/kg for the shallots, way below the production costs.”

Germany: Local onions still available until March

In central Germany, the local harvest is running out. A trader says that he’ll probably still have German onions (yellow and red) available until mid-March. Then he will switch over to Dutch imports for a month. “Normally, we see drops of around 30% here in Hesse.” From mid-April, onions are imported from New Zealand. These remain on the market until the start of the German season. Until the beginning of this month, the condition of the onions in storage remained good. “Now we see the effects of the dry, hot summer, because the product is getting old faster than normal.” Yet there are no worries about shortages. The price of 48 Euro per 100 kilos is far above average.

France: Price has doubled

The market is under pressure this year. Nevertheless, a trader points out that despite the small sizes due to the dry weather, the quality of French onions is good. The problem lies mainly in the available volumes. This year, the supply is lower than the demand, but the prices are “correct” and regularly show a rising trend. Unlike last year, when the price stood at 150 Euro per ton, now it stands at 350 Euro per ton. It is a good year for the French.

In addition to the domestic market, traders regularly get demand from other countries, but it is difficult to meet that demand. According to the French, the international demand is greater due to the shortages suffered by Dutch exporters. There appears to be a high demand for sizes 60/80 and 40/60.

Spain: Good demand drives prices up

The harvest in Spain has recovered after the past two years and has even reached higher figures than in those years. Thanks to the abundance of large sizes and the good quality of the onions, combined with the shortages elsewhere on the continent, the demand for Spanish onions is quite high. This is resulting in good prices of up to 0.40 Euro per kilo for the onions from storage. “This is one of the best seasons I have known,” says a grower and trader. “The weather has been mild this year, with no heat waves like last year.”

The demand for Spanish onions is so great that traders have already started importing from New Zealand, South America and South Africa to be able to meet the demand. Exporters are somewhat concerned about the closing of the Senegalese border for Dutch onions, as Senegal is an important market for them. In these circumstances, Spanish traders fear a surplus of Dutch onions in Europe in the next season.

Given this year’s results, the acreage is expected to be expanded. That of the first early onions is already around 10% greater than last year. The harvest of these fields starts in April/May. For the middle and late onions, it is still too early to say anything definitive.

US: Market at turning point

The onion supply is currently stable, but the market seems to be on the threshold of change. In the Northwest, the availability of red and yellow onions is good, but shortages of white onions have been reported. Furthermore, the quality of the white onions was not optimal, so growers sold them early in the season. Last year, the situation was the opposite and many growers waited too long to sell, causing the market to collapse. In general, the supply of white onions seems to be lower this year. Reports about a smaller harvest of white onions also arrive from Mexico and Texas.

In other onion growing areas, namely Michigan, New York, Wisconsin and Canada, the prospects are not much better. The harvest is disappointing due to the heavy rain recorded at the end of the summer.

The demand, in any case, stays low. As a result, the market is stable. Traditionally, the demand starts falling by the end of January or early February. Should the demand rise, it will immediately be reflected in the price. A trader says that the price of white onions, which currently stands at 25 dollars, could easily rise by 10 dollars. The rising demand seems to come from abroad, from countries like Mexico and the Netherlands, which demand increasingly more onions.

The price is currently still on the high side, although that could still quickly change. For the red onions, the price reaches 4 dollars in a bad market and 7 dollars in a good market. “We are currently getting 5.50 to 6 dollars, so that’s good,” says a trader.

Meanwhile, Mexico has started shipping yellow onions, although the peak won’t be reached until March. In the US, there are 2 million bales of onions less in storage. In March, as soon as Michigan, New York, Wisconsin and Canada have nothing left in storage, the demand from these states will rise. In recent years, these regions have had enough with their own production.

Australia: Exports stimulated by full domestic market

One of the largest growing companies in South Australia reports that the harvest is slightly smaller than last year. The strong winds and the persistent drought have taken a negative toll on the harvest. According to reports, there have been no issues with diseases. Given the significant planting of short, medium and long day onions, the harvest will probably last until March.

The domestic market was oversupplied last year; as a result, producers and traders based their growth strategy on the promotion of exports. The sector has launched various initiatives to further invest in this field.

China exporting to Europe

The onion market in China is currently very good. In early 2018, things didn’t go as well and prices were somewhat low. This time, however. given the problems in Europe (caused by a much lower onion production than in other years), the demand for Chinese onions has improved considerably in the second part of the year. At the moment, a lot is being exported from China to Europe, but Southeast Asia is still an important destination for Chinese onions. The most popular variety in Europe is the yellow onion. The demand for red onions is lower, because it is exported to Europe from India. Onion prices are also currently higher than those recorded around this time last year. The price has risen not only because of the rising demand, but also because the shipping costs from the port of Qingdao to Rotterdam have become more expensive. During the Chinese New Year, everything comes to a halt for a while, but onion shipments have been resumed this week.

Kyrgyzstan is looking for a new market

Since neighboring Kazakhstan and Russia have increased their onion productions, Kyrgyz onion growers have been looking for alternatives. In recent years, Kyrgyz onions have had a good position in these markets, but they are now having to give up that place to domestic products. Exporters are therefore looking for new export destinations. Not surprisingly, they see opportunities in Europe.

Publication date : 2/15/2019
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