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The export season of Uzbek onions ends in a few weeks

According to EastFruit experts, the 2021 season is successful for producers and exporters of Uzbek onions and will end in the coming weeks. Why can it be considered successful and what indicates that it is approaching to an end?

As a rule, the season of shipments of onions from Uzbekistan to foreign markets ends in July and statistics confirm this. Over the past 8 years, the only exception was 2018, when the export season lasted through August. However, the current developments in the Russian onion market, the main sales market for Uzbek onions, indicate that the 2021 season will not be an exception.

The current export season of early onions from Uzbekistan has started quite successfully for producers and exporters. The first large batch of early winter onions in Uzbekistan appeared on wholesale markets at the end of the first decade of April 2021, while there was a shortage of high-quality onions from last year’s harvest in Russia. The situation in the segment of local onion worsened, and farmers were ready to sell their products for processing at a token price of 1 RUB/kg ($ 0.014), not to spend money on their disposal. Most of the key market players explained this by the low quality of last year’s onions and a rather large share of substandard products. This is due to the storage of wet onions in 2020, since there were prolonged rains during the harvesting period in most of the country. Russian supermarket chains have significantly reduced purchases of local onions due to their poor quality and were expecting high-quality onions of new harvest from Central Asian countries. Thus, the season of export to the Russian market has started quite successfully for the onion producers of the countries of the region.

The sales season for winter onions in Russia began almost 2 weeks later than in 2020. In the south of the country, the harvesting of winter onions started in early June. In turn, this extended the exporting period of onions from Central Asia to the Russian market by another two weeks. Despite the starting prices of local winter onions in the 2021 season being on average 13% lower than in 2020 due to imports from Central Asia, average wholesale prices in Uzbekistan and Russia differed in more than 20 cents per kg, giving an opportunity for Uzbek exporters to continue onion exports to Russia.

Both factors that ensured a rather successful season for early onions export from Uzbekistan to Russia are associated with weather conditions in Russia. Firstly, prolonged rains during the harvesting and laying of onions in 2020, and, secondly, a delay in the start of the harvesting of winter onions in 2021.

Naturally, the Russian onion market began to change in June. The supply of local winter onions began increasing, while prices began declining. By the end of June, the difference between the average wholesale prices in the markets of Russia and Uzbekistan decreased to 17 cents per kg, and as of 3 July 2021 – to 11 cents per kg. EastFruit experts drew attention to the geography of onion exports from Uzbekistan over the last week and note a large share of shipments to the regions of Russia closest to Uzbekistan and to the northern part of Russia, where prices for fruits and vegetables are higher than in the center of the country, as well as to Kazakhstan. Since in the logistics costs for onions every cent per kg is important for the cost at the final destination, the impact of the downward trend in prices in the Russian market on onion exports from Uzbekistan becomes clearer.

At the same time, key players on the Russian onion market note that the downward trend in prices in the early onion segment will continue. The reason is that the supply of early onions on the market continues to grow, and the demand leaves much to be desired. This means that in order to continue onion exports from Uzbekistan to Russia, wholesale prices in Uzbekistan must decrease for exports to make economic sense. Considering that the average wholesale prices for onions in Uzbekistan ranged from 8 to 10 cents in June 2021, there is not much room for a further decrease. Also, demand on the domestic market can support prices and not let them drop significantly.

Thus, this indicates the end of the export season of onions from Uzbekistan to Russia is to approach in the next few weeks.

However, weather conditions in Russia cannot always ensure a successful export season for Uzbek onion producers, since they are an unpredictable factor. Therefore, EastFruit experts consider it risky to increase the production of early onions in Uzbekistan and noted a number of problems on the way of Uzbek onions to export markets in the article “Should Uzbekistan continue expanding early onion production for exports? Pros and cons”.

According to EastFruit experts, at the end of June 2021, onions became the second most important item in the export of fruits and vegetables from Uzbekistan. Onions were second in the ranking of requests for vehicles for shipping fruits and vegetables for export, accounting for about 15% of them.

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