Onion market dilemma – will the price collapse or go up sharply?
EastFruit notes that fresh onions are a product with a completely inelastic level of demand. In other words, if onion prices rise, its consumption does not decrease much, because there is absolutely nothing to replace onions in recipes with.
Experts note that the lack of demand elasticity for onions has a negative impact on the risk level of this business. If suddenly production exceeds needs, then no one needs onions even for free. And if there is not enough onion, then there is no limit to the rise in onion prices.
All countries can be divided into onion exporting countries and onion importing countries. There are also countries with relatively balanced domestic production and consumption of onions.
Onion prices in importing countries are affected by the market situation in the countries from which onions are imported. For exporters, it is reportedly the other way around – prices depend directly on the level of demand and prices in the markets of the supplying countries. Accordingly, the cost of logistics is also very important.
The most dramatic changes in onion prices occur in those countries that are turning from an importer into an exporter and vice versa. This was seen in the countries of Central Asia immediately after the damage from the frosts of the winter of 2023.
According to EastFruit, global onion trade is about 4.2 billion US dollars or 9-10 million tons per annum. The largest exporters are India and the Netherlands. Each of these countries exports from one and a half to two million tons of onions annually. It is to be noted that India predominantly sells red or purple varieties of onions, as well as white varieties. Yellow onions are much less popular here. Accordingly, India’s influence on the global yellow onion market is rather low.
Major onion exporting countries also include China, Mexico, Egypt, the USA, Spain, Peru, Afghanistan, Poland, Uzbekistan, and Turkey. By the way, Kazakhstan, which is also often called a large exporter, is actually a net importer of onions. The main volumes of onion exports from Kazakhstan are re-exports of Uzbek products.
The largest importers of onions are Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. These countries also import mainly red/purple and white onion varieties. These are the countries that buy onions mostly from India. Accordingly, their influence on the yellow onion market is also minimal. In the same category are other Asian countries that are among the top 10 largest global onion importers: Malaysia, Pakistan, and Vietnam. Although here part of the yellow onion is higher.
Major importers are also the USA, Great Britain, Japan, Poland, Canada, the Netherlands, and Germany.
Therefore, yellow onions are a fairly global crop. This means that it is always possible to find markets for onions – the only question is the price of logistics.
The main developments in the global onion market that affect prices on a global scale, according to EastFruit analysts, are: 1) drought in the countries of Northern Europe, primarily the Netherlands and Germany, which had a negative impact on onion yields; 2) a ban on the export of onions from Egypt until the end of 2023; 3) restrictions on the export of onions from India; 4) a ban on exports of onions from Turkey since November 2022, which has not been lifted; 5) a sharp increase in the area under onions in Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, and other countries in the region; and 6) not yet verified reports of problems with the quality of onions among producers in the European Union – primarily in Poland and the North-West of the EU due to unfavorable weather conditions in the summer of 2023.