Dutch onion exports continue to grow with ACP markets, particularly in West Africa being major destination markets. Since 2010 the importance of ACP markets to extra-EU Dutch onion exports has increased from 57.6% to 62.5%, with ACP market increasing in importance whenever difficulties are faced on other third country markets. This suggest any disruption of Dutch-UK onion exports arising from a hard-Brexit could rebound in terms of increased Dutch onion exports to ACP markets. This in turn could adversely impact on local efforts across the ACP to expand local production of onions for national and regional markets
Press reports indicate the record for Dutch onion exports established in 2015/16 has been broken in the 2016/17 season as export volumes increased 4% to 1.1 million tonnes. Four West African ACP countries were amongst the top 6 destinations for Dutch onion exports in the 2016/17 season, with Senegal leading the way, Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea in 3rd and 4th place respectively and Mauritania in 6th place. In addition five further West and Central African ACP countries (Mali, Gambia, Sierra Leone, DRC, Congo) and 2 Caribbean countries (Haiti and Jamaica) were among the top 20 destinations for Dutch onion exports.
There is seen as being a particularly strong increase in demand for onions in West Africa with this impacting on the seasonal structure of Dutch onion exports. Formerly 40-45% of exports took place before the new year with 55-60% taking place after the new year, however now this ratio is reversed.
The Dutch have also unexpectedly sold 30,000 tonnes of onions to Brazil in the second half of the season (1).
It should be noted the vast majority of this Dutch onion trade is in re-exports. According to Freshplaza.com, ‘although the Netherlands accounts for less than 2% of the global onion production, it is a major player in the export area’ (2), accounting for around ‘15.8% of total onions exports’ in 2016 (3).
The beginning of the 2017/18 season however is proving more difficult with the government of Senegal having ‘determined that the Netherlands could retroactively export no more than 65,000 tonnes of onions to Senegal during the period of 1 September to 1 December 2017’ (2). This compares to imports from Holland of 170,000 tonnes in the 2016/17 season (1).
The table below places the current 2016/17 season developments in Dutch onion exports in the context of recent trends. It should be noted:
- overall since 2010 the importance of ACP markets to extra-EU Dutch onion exports has increased from 57.6% to 62.5%, with this being in large part attributable to the almost 90% decline in Dutch onion exports to Russia over this period;
- West Africa is by far the most important ACP market for Dutch onion exports, taking in 2016 over half of all extra-EU Dutch onion exports;
- whenever there is a dip in Dutch extra-EU onion exports, African and wider ACP markets take on more significance, with exports to African and wider ACP markets increasing;
- despite the slump in Dutch onion sales to the Dominican Republic since a peak of over 16,000 tonnes in 2012, Dutch onion exports to the other ACP Caribbean destinations have held up surprisingly well, with Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago all now taking a higher value of Dutch onion exports than the Dominican Republic.
In terms of the overall pattern of Dutch onion export, in 2016/17 the UK rose to prominence as the second most important destination for Dutch onion exports on the back of a 45% increase in export volumes. These increased Dutch exports to the UK took place despite the longer term concerns over the impact Brexit could have on imports from the Netherlands (1).
Dutch Extra-EU Onion Exports (tonnes) and % share extra EU exports (070310)
|2010||2011||2012||2013||2014||2015||2016||% share 2016||% growth 2010-16|
|Total extra EU||666,968||632,703||714,858||694,141||708,470||844,473||805,455||+20.8%|
|– Ivory Coast||64,658||66,188||62,463||77,503||66,845||94,320||69,412||8.6%||+7.3%|
|– Sierra Leone||7,554||10,582||14,252||17,081||18,473||19,694||18,064||2.2%||+139.1%|
|Other West Africa||5,477||6,461||7,786||10,466||9,361||11,947||11,857||1.5%||+116,5%|
|Total West Africa||306,356||322,462||338,254||379,364||365,613||417,615||417,553||51.8%||+36.3%|
|– Equ Gui||159||234||5||120||287||351||153||0.019||-3.8%|
|– South Africa||856||378||984||1,026||621||145||103||0.12%||-88%|
|– Dominican Republic||10,553||8,148||16,131||5,092||5,636||6,441||7,705,||1.0%||-27%|
|– St Kitts||218||203||–||221||200||196||229||0.03%||+5.0%|
|– St Lucia||893||846||938||838||793||885||929||0.12%||+4.0%|
|– St Vincent & Gren||231||178||181||138||107||96||89||0.01%||-71.5%|
|Trinidad & Tobago||7,509||8,381||8,019||7,996||8,720||8,503||8,375||1.1%||+11.5%|
|% share ACP extra-EU||57.6%||62.5%||59.4%||64.9%||62.8%||59.4%||62.5%|
Source: EC, Market Access Data Base http://madb.europa.eu/madb/indexPubli.htm
A detailed analysis of the potential adverse effects of Brexit on the Dutch businesses has been posted by Rabobank, which includes advice on the types of analysis companies should undertake in order to assess the potential impact of Brexit (4)
(1) Onion Journal, ‘Holland onions reaching more destinations’, September 2017
(2) Freshplaza.com, ‘Demand for Dutch onions is now starting’, 9 October 2017
(3) WTex, ‘Onions Exports by Country’, June 1, 2017
(4) Rabobank, ‘Brexit: the Impact for Dutch Business’, 30 June 2017
|Comment and Analysis
The experience of the impact of the loss of the Russian market on patterns of extra-EU Dutch onion exports potentially raises concerns over the likely impact of a ‘hard Brexit’ on patterns of Dutch onion exports to Africa. Declining exports to the Russian market between 2010 and 2016 were in large part (80%) compensated for by the expansion of Dutch onion exports to ACP market, particularly to markets in West Africa. There seems to be a clear pattern that when overall levels of Dutch exports decline, exports to ACP countries increase.
This suggests, that should there be a ‘hard Brexit, with the current Dutch-UK onion trade being disrupted, then Dutch exporters may seek to expand exports to ACP markets, particularly those in West Africa.
The need to find alternative export markets for the 145,000 tonnes of onions currently exported to the UK market (some 13% of total Dutch onion exports) could even lead Dutch exporters to challenge the current use by West African governments of quantitative restrictions on onion imports, under the provisions of the EU-West Africa EPA. This agreement to which the majority of West African governments have already agreed, prohibits the use of quantitative restrictions on trade with the EU.