During the period spanning from Jul-22 to Jun-23, Egypt managed to ship 128 thousand metric tons (mt) of onions to the European Union (EU) market. To put this into perspective, Egypt's annual onion exports to the EU had not surpassed 60 thousand mt in the three previous marketing years (MY). However, it's important to note that the current volumes still fall short of the record figure of 165 thousand mt exported to the EU in MY 2018/19.
One of the primary driving forces behind this surge in demand for Egyptian onions in European markets was the failure of the EU onion crop due to a drought during the preceding summer. Local farmers faced dwindling stocks, prompting Egypt to increase its onion exports to the EU during the spring of 2023. Furthermore, the devaluation of the Egyptian pound made Egyptian produce more competitively priced in the global market, adding to its appeal.
The EU's onion season in MY 2022/23 was marred by the devastating aftermath of the summer drought, leading to an onion shortage and subsequent price spikes. Poland, for example, reported significant price increases in the autumn of the previous year, with prices reaching their highest levels since 2019 by the end of spring 2023.
The Netherlands maintained its position as the primary importer of Egyptian onions in MY 2022/23, mainly utilizing them for re-export to other countries. However, the Netherlands' share in the Egyptian onion export structure decreased to 40%, a noticeable drop from previous years when it ranged from 53% to 64%, reaching a peak of 80% in MY 2021/22.
The EU is a major global importer of onions, with annual imports from non-EU countries typically ranging from 280 thousand mt to 380 thousand mt. In 2019, imports hit an all-time high of 480 thousand mt. These imports primarily occur during the spring and early summer when importers focus on countries that have just begun harvesting new crops of onions. Egypt and Israel collectively accounted for 88-96% of total imports from non-EU countries during this period.
Egypt's successful increase in the share of direct consumers of its onions within the EU export structure is notable. The top five importers of Egyptian onions in the EU for MY 2022/23 included Italy, Slovenia, Romania, and Greece. Together, these countries imported nearly 60 thousand mt of Egyptian onions, constituting 45% of Egypt's total onion exports to the EU.
Source: ITC Trade Map
In total, the EU imported nearly 400 thousand mt of onions from all non-EU countries in MY 2022/23, marking a 76% year-over-year (YoY) increase but still falling short of the levels seen in MY 2018/19 when imports reached 550 thousand mt. The highest demand for imported onions in the EU typically coincides with the peak of Egyptian exports and shipments from other countries with available volumes of new crops.
Egypt led the way among onion suppliers to the EU, accounting for 33% of the market share in MY 2022/23. New Zealand followed with 52 thousand mt, and South America (including Peru, Chile, and Argentina) exported 66 thousand mt of onions to the EU.
Serbia was the leading onion supplier among non-EU European countries, with 14,300 mt shipped. Key Asian exporters included India with 23.8 thousand mt and China with 21.3 mt. Interestingly, Central Asian countries only exported 7.3 thousand mt of onions to the EU, a significant drop from the 67.2 thousand mt exported in MY 2018/19. Weather-related challenges, such as those faced by Uzbekistan, even led to it becoming a net importer of onions.
The Netherlands and Spain stood out as the primary importers of onions in the EU, jointly accounting for over half of the total onion imports. Romania (26 thousand mt), Italy (25 thousand mt), and France (22 thousand mt) also played substantial roles in the EU's onion imports. While Israel did manage to reach a record-high export of 140 thousand mt of onions to the EU in the previous year, it still fell behind Egypt's impressive exports.