Last year’s sweltering heatwave in mainland Europe has combined with the UK’s heavy rainfall to reduce this year’s onion crop by at least 10%. As a result, industry analysts fear that wholesale prices may rise by over 50%.
The largest onion producers in Europe are concentrated in Spain and Holland – both of which had exceptionally hot and dry weather last summer. Conditions had a particularly severe impact on “Spanish onions”, which failed to grow to their usual size. These onions are among the largest onions sold and are generally regarded as milder and sweeter than other varieties.
Andrew Holding, Chair of British Onions, told East London News: “There will be a shortage of large, good quality onions across Europe over the coming weeks.. It will be hard for supermarkets to get hold of enough of the Spanish-style onions, the ones usually sold in nets of three onions, to satisfy demand.”
The threatened shortage has led to a global onion swap: while Dutch growers are exporting onions to South Africa, the European shortage may make it cost effective for New Zealand growers to send their onions over here.
The threat to the UK consumer comes after Turkish shoppers have been experiencing shortages since just after the New Year, with wholesale prices of the onions doubling and retail prices rising fourfold.