Knowing your onions: Flevoland growers reap profits of dry summer

Onions are trading for eye-watering prices. Photo: Depositphotos
Onions are trading for eye-watering prices. Photo: Depositphotos

Onion farmers in Flevoland are enjoying an autumn bonanza as prices for the root vegetables surge in the wake of a hot, dry summer.

Market prices for onions have hit around 60 cents a kilo, three times what they usually cost, as a result of poor harvests around the world.

But in Flevoland farmers have been relatively unaffected, mainly because the IJsselmeer gives them an abundant source of fresh water even in years when rainfall is low. Unlike other Dutch provinces, Flevoland had no restrictions on irrigation this summer.

‘I’ve been a farmer for 30 years and I’ve never seen such high prices,’ Peter van Damme from Biddinghuizen told NOS.

Gijsbert Gunter, of the Holland Onion Association, said scarcity elsewhere had made Dutch onions a prized commodity. ‘Onions are the most commonly eaten vegetable in the world,’ he said. ‘90% of what we harvest is exported.’

But like other producers, onion farmers are experiencing eye-watering increases in their costs that have cut into their profits, Gunter added.

‘Everything’s becoming more expensive, such as staffing costs,’ he said. ‘These kinds of outliers are very important because they allow us to innovate and catch up with lean years.’

The prices have also been volatile in recent weeks, leaving farmers with a difficult choice of whether to cash in immediately or hold on to their crops and risk being hit by a sudden slump.

‘I’ve sold a lot of onions already because it’s not sensible to hold on to everything because you think the price will keep rising,’ said Van Damme. ‘I’ve learned that the price can collapse quickly and then you’re left with nothing.

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