The British onion season is transitioning from last season’s to the new crop as the quality of Moroccan grapes is currently rated as ”excellent”..
Managing Director of Macalea GmbH & Co KG, based in Hamburg,
Herbert Scholdei, says “about two weeks ago, the season of Moroccan grape began. The quality is excellent.
”Prices are still a bit depressed by the Indian goods. That, as they say, also always depends on supply and demand. With less supply and higher demand, there are naturally higher prices.”
The company is represented in more than 12 countries with its conventional and organic products.
“Italian grapes, after all, always come out a little later; it’s always about the sales windows. The Egyptians usually start with the season. Compared to the Egyptian grapes, I think there are better and newer varieties in the Moroccan grapes. But as soon as Italy starts its season, we will devote more time to those, because of course they are closer to the market.”
He is also noticing delays this year. “Italy is basically later than Spain. Usually at the end of June the first volumes would come from Spain, which are a bit delayed this year. They’re delayed by a week now. But in three weeks, the season for Morocco starts already”, he says.
“In the northern hemisphere, after all, it was colder than usual this year. This affected not only us in Germany, but also Spain and Italy. But it also delayed European apple production.”
“In Morocco, only seedless are produced. Grapes with seeds are still consumed in Italy itself, but in the rest of Europe seeded grapes are hardly eaten”, Scholdei continued.
The competition for Moroccan grapes at the moment is mainly Egyptian. “The market share of Moroccan grapes is probably just about 10% compared to Egyptian. When it comes to market share, they always have to compare the numbers with the current competition. Right now, it’s mostly Egypt and Morocco.”
He says seasonality, which affects sales figures, is not as noticeable with grapes as it is with other fruits.
“Grapes are relatively free of competition, because if you want to buy grapes, you buy grapes. However, it is of course the case that mango consumption tends to fall in the summer, for example, because consumers want to consume the cheaper stone fruits. And that’s right, because it’s a seasonal product.
”Conversely, stone fruit from overseas, in turn, is hard to sell in the winter because, frankly, they don’t taste good anymore. This has to do with the fact that they are often picked too early. Especially since the quality of mangoes is also improving a lot.”
According to Scholdei, growing grapes organically is not that easy. “The growers we work with still grow relatively conventionally. Growing organic grapes is extremely difficult, especially if the products come from overseas, because that involves a correspondingly long journey.
”That makes it a bit more complicated. Other products like organic apples, pears, limes, are all products that have a longer shelf life and are accordingly more likely to be grown organically.”
“With other types of fruit, of course, you’re always looking for good varieties with a good taste. There will be quite a bit going on in the next few years that you will get better tasting grapes. But of course it’s always a question of size. Take a look at raisins, for example. Bigger fruit never tastes as good as smaller fruit.”
However, the old onions will be on the market for another week to 10 days, then the new crop will be available. There are also some imported onions around just now.
“As far as the growing season goes it has been a real year of extremes,” comments Tim Elcombe, Chairman of British Onion Growers.
“It was a wet winter from December to February, we had 170% of normal year’s rainfall, it was dry enough in March to get the planting done, but the long period of frost in April stopped growth in the plants. It has been better the last couple of months although more recently it has been dull with lots of localised heavy showers.
”Despite this it’s not looking too bad and we expect average yields, quality will depend on the weather though. We need both good sunshine and some rain. Growers have not had to irrigate yet, but the extreme weather does make it difficult for growers to be efficient or to make accurate predictions.”
Input costs are going up for growers from fertilizer and seed to haulage and labour and these costs need to be met.
“The Dutch planted acreage has increased by 11% and although the majority of onions will be exported to the African and Asian markets it may still affect the UK market to a degree if they fail to export the volumes due to the problems such as container availability and shipping delays.”
Last year was an interesting year for sales with retail doing very well, while food service saw a huge dip due to the lockdowns.
“We are now seeing a switch back to a more normal sales pattern, but will only really know in September or October if this has returned to normal levels. This of course is dependent on a full return to normality.”