Red or white, onions are considered a key element in the African culture. It is part of not only African cuisine but also medicine and culture. In ancient Egypt, onions were worshiped and considered as a symbol of eternity. Pharaohs used to bury onion with them in the tomb. In fact, onions vital usages thought to be indispensable for the afterlife (National Onion Association, 2011).
Rich in calcium and potassium, with high vitamins and sulfur intakes, onions provide the body with antioxidants essential for the immune system. It protects the body from lethal diseases as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Also, it has other benefits as an antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. As a result, African traditional cuisine uses onions in almost every dish for its nutritional value like Okra Soup, Pepper Soup, Banga Soup, and Edikang Ikong Soup. As a result, onion consumption is very high in the African continent (Demand Africa, 2019).
Onion consumption in Africa
All over Africa, onion consumption is very high. It is the continent with the highest consumption per capita in the world. Only in Libya, 66.8 pounds of onion per year is consumed (The National Onion Association, 2017). Followed by Senegal with 21.7 kilos per capita (UN, 2011). In South Africa, the average onion consumption is approximately 367 238 tons per annum (Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, 2017). In Benin, onion consumption is estimated at 3.3kg of onions per year per person in the urban area while 1.1 kg of onions per year per person in the rural area which represent a total of 2100 ton per year of consumption demand(Miassi, Dossa, Banzou, 2018).
The consumption of onions is increasing in Ghana, the market is growing at an estimated 11% per annum, indicating that onion production is sustainable into the future. Thus, it will continue to deliver good value to the local farmers involved in its production (Market Development for northern Ghana, 2019). Overall, the demand for onion is very high, yet the local production is relatively very low.
Yet, the high demand for onions in the African continent pushes the African countries to increase the level of production and to import from outside the continent. So what is the best destination for onion imports in the world?
Best countries to export onions
Importing onions from the Netherlands:
Dutch onions are competing fiercely in the market. Through the years, onions succeeded in dominating the agriculture production in Holland. There are serious determination and care allocated to the onion production in the country. In fact, onions cultivation occupies the highest yield per hectare not only in Holland but also in the world. In addition to the high production yield, Holland has an efficient chain and port logistics. The onion sector has over 3,500 growers, 50 packagers/sorters at most, and around 200 exporters.
Dutch farmers are only entitled to take care of the growing process. The production chain is well distributed where each activity is done by specialized agents. The packaging is done with specialized companies which leads to lowering the cost of production and maximizing the quality. The port logistics is helping the country to maintain its competitive advantage. From Rotterdam, the onions are transported by container ship to, for instance, export destination Senegal, where they can be preserved and eaten for up to two months. Transport by ship from Rotterdam to Dakar is cheaper than road transport to Paris, for instance(ING Economic Bureau, 2019). Consequently, so many African countries are interested in importing from the Netherlands. Actually, 11 African countries are in the top 20 destinations for Dutch onion exports. This latter gives an insight into the success of the made in Holland trademark among the African consumers.
Importing onions from China
On the other hand, China is ranked first in terms of onion production. The production volume keeps increasing all over the years. The country produces a wide variety of onions such as allium crops, Chinese chive, garlic, and Welsh onion. China is dominating the market thanks to its ongoing investment in new technology and cultivation techniques such as mechanization to upgrade its production size. China had already devoted 0.473 million hectares for onion cultivation. This number make of it the word top onion producer with over 20 million tons a year (The daily records, 2019). However, China does mainly export to nearby Asian countries. Yet, if you are interested in importing onions or any other product from China, you can read more on the different steps of importing.
Importing onions from Turkey
Turkey’s economy has always been relying heavily on the agriculture sector. Onions have been one of the products that have been both consumed locally and exported abroad. Onions were cultivated for thousands of years. Thus, Turkish farmers are very familiar with onion cultivation techniques. The cultivation occupies 65,000 hectares of lands mainly located in the north of the country. The most important region for growing onion is Polatli, located in the province of Ankara (Amisynicole, 2016). Turkey exports its onion to mainly neighbor countries. Yet, Senegal is the only importer of Turkish onions in the African continent. Senegal imports a volume worth $406k (Tridge, 2016). Nevertheless, the total onion production is over 2 million tons.
Turkish onion comes in two types; winter and summer onion. Summer onions are thick meaty, juicy, oblong-shaped, generally consumed in the salad. While winter onions are connected with seasonal rains, with round and oval shape. To read more about Turkey, check our article Turkey, Africa new favorite import destination.
Egypt is a major player in the world onion market, it had produced 1.75 million tons in 2017 to optimize its production to 3 million tons by 2019. Demand on the Egyptian onions is coming from all over the world. Arab countries, Asia, and Russia are the main consumers of the Egyptian onion harvest. However, only Libya imports from Egypt with a volume worth 7M dollars. Egyptian onion succeeded in invading those markets by competing hard with the Dutch and Turkish rivals by offering competitive prices and high quality.
The low labor cost results in lowering the price. The prices are so competitive that India, the second world producer of onions, is importing onions from Egypt. India produces 19,299,000 tons and imports 18,000 tons of extra from Egypt (Peninsula, 2015). Thus importing from Egypt is always a good destination to consider for onions. Read more on products imported from Egypt by clicking Here.
Importing onions from Morocco
Located in North West Africa, Morocco is famous for its moderate subtropical climate. Yet, the faraway you go from the ocean towards the mountain, the colder the climate is. Onions are usually cultivated in center of the country, Meknes-Tafilalet region nearby the mountains. In total, approximately 22 hectares of land in the area grows the essential vegetable. The top African Export Destinations are Mali, Mauritania, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso. The trade value is respectively 2M dollars, 1.7M dollars, 528.8 K dollars, and 180.8K dollars (Tridge, 2016).
This table showcases the production, trade volume and most essentially the wholesale price as per February 2019 for China, Egypt, Turkey, Netherland, and Morocco. The prices are very competitive between those countries while the cheapest price is offered by Morocco.
Rank / Share in Production
Volume in Ton
|Average Production Price /
USD per Metric Ton
As per February 6, 2019
|China||1/ 25.61||23.8M||$173.3||$ 13.5||$470.5||0.29|
|Egypt||3/3.35||3.1M||130.80||$ 2.14||$ 256||0.19|
|Turkey||6/2.28||2.1M||250.30||$ 4.2||$ 21||0.34|
|Morocco||27/0.32||685.6K||——||$ 3.6||$ 11.7||$0.14|
Onions are a hot commodity that is always highly demanded in the market worldwide. Yet, it’s a product with high risk. The risk in importing onions to Africa is mainly related to the supply chain; packaging and logistics challenges.
Challenges in the onion supply chain
Packaging is an important step of the trade process as it is vital to protect and maintain the quality of the product. Onion package is usually a netted poly bag or plastic bags depending on the country requirements and regulations.
Cold chain management
In general, perishables are sensitive vegetables that can get spoiled easily if not well preserved. In fact, onions have a high content of water that goes up to 90%. This high percentage makes onions a potential field for bacteria to expand at a very fast pace. For instance, 10°C above the recommended temperature can lead to multiply the rate of reparation and end up spoiling the onions. On one hand, onions should be transported in refrigerated container trucks till it reaches the storage. On the other hand, storage is also a crucial part of the process. The phases of onion storage management are drying, curing, cooling, holding, and conditioning before marketing (Oregon State University, 1985).
The role of cold storage of onions has to achieve the following objectives:
- Seasonal production
- Losses in transit
- Better distribution and fair prices
- Stabilizing market prices
- Maintain quality
- Wastage reduction
As a result, the good management of the supply chain is very crucial to maintain the quality and safety of the onions and avoid wastage, thus financial losses. Nevertheless, the industry is full of opportunities and new development trends.
How WaystoCap can help you import onions smoothly
Also, today’s world is becoming more and more health conscious. Onions are full of vitamins and nutrition’s that are essential in the daily diet of the African household. Moreover, the population in Africa is in continuous growth, which implies that the demand will be increasing. As a result, onions are and will always be a product of high demand. Yet, importing onion is a profitable product to consider. WaystoCap offers different services all along the supply chain. You can import onion from verified suppliers via our platform by asking for a quote. WaystoCap guarantees you access to the best prices in the market in addition to high-quality onions. Also, WaystoCap offers assistance all along the import operation. Starting from the initial departure in Morocco, until it reaches the final destination. WaystoCap services are covering the Logistics, Locals and market intelligence.
Time is very important in trade operation and so it is for Waystocap. WaystoCap Logistics offers full assistance for your cargo. We work with the most reputable freight forwarders in the market to ensure you are provided with superior quality services. Using WaystoCap Logistics has many benefits including:
- Cutting transit times
With on the ground support and well-located warehouses, WaystoCap can act as your local provider for storage too, meaning you’ll cut your transit times further, with our existing infrastructure in place.
- Increasing security
With Waystocap Local a local presence in major African ports we can operate as your on-the-ground partner once your goods arrive at the destination. Taking care of clearance and customs too, with our smart warehousing solution at your disposal.
- Providing services for your business
For everything from simple FCL shipments to splitting LCL shipments to multiple destinations, and tricky clearance issues, WaystoCap Logistics can handle your freight needs on the continent!
We expanded our presence in Africa by creating local offices in the continent. WaystoCap Local helps you sell your product locally by handling the clearance, sales, and distribution process. Using WaystoCap Local has many benefits including:
- Having a trusted partner in Africa
Let WaystoCap be your trusted partner in Africa, we take the pain out of working in local markets
- Having an infrastructure bridge
We act as the infrastructure bridge in the market, work with us and have a reliable partner who takes care of everything for you
- Getting goods closer to your customer
Your goods are available when wholesalers and retailers need them, no more waiting 45+ days to have them in your customers’ hands.