Drought drives SA’s onion price up

The current drought in South Africa’s (SA) Western Cape Province, as well as less hectares planted in the Northern Cape Province have resulted in lower volumes of onions at fresh produce markets, which has nearly doubled prices.

The average onion price for all classes, grades and markets reached R5.22/kg on 17 January, says the Northern Onion Committee (NOC). This is nearly double the price for this time of year, says Pieter du Toit, Chairman of Korkom, an onion and potato commodity organisation in the Ceres area.

“The drought has taken its toll and planted hectares have shrunk significantly, which means the price is very good. We expected that the price was going to be higher, but there are still good volumes coming to markets from the north of the country,” he explains.

Also read: Drought takes hold in Southern Africa

The Ceres district usually markets its onions from February to June, but this year the region only planted 60% of its usual hectares due to the drought. “We predict a significant onion shortage on national markets between April and June. We also expect that the current price to move sideways during the next month or 2, but that it will rise strongly as onion volumes at markets decrease.”

The Northern Cape’s producers currently supply approximately 40% of the national volume, while the Ceres region contributes 15%, according to the NOC’s statistics. Leonie Haak, the Northern Cape Onion Producers’ Association, says this area had supplied 38% of its total hectares by 17 January.

“The quality from the Northern Cape is looking very good at the moment and producers are smiling about the good price. The region planted less onions than previous years, but it is difficult to estimate the exact number of hectares,” she explains.

The Free State Province region is also contributing to the national onion volume with a contribution of about 25%. According to the NOC, the Free State’s statistics indicate that onions are selling at an average price of R5.36/kg, while Northern Cape onions are reaching R4.85/kg, with Ceres’ offering coming in at R5.89/kg.

Also read: Vegetable production: The art of cultivating onions

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