Changing temperatures continue to affect onion yields

The 2006-2007 season was one of the most difficult for processing onions.

The drought conditions and heatwave in 2006 meant onions simply stopped growing, because the varieties that are grown in the UK typically shut down when the temperature rises above 30 degrees.

In complete contrast, 2007 has turned out to be one of the wettest summers on record. However, the above average rain levels have brought different challenges, with more diseases such as mildew and neck rot, in the crop. This is not just confined to the UK, and many of the growing areas across Northern Europe have also been affected, although thankfully, overall availability and pricing is returning to more normal levels.

According to James Parrish, commercial director of fresh vegetable preparation specialists Parripak Foods,“There are still challenging times ahead. The problems may well come in the second half of the season, as it is unlikely that product will store long enough. Chilled prepared food manufacturers need all year round quality supply and consistency and onion is one of the most popular ingredients in so many prepared foods. We have developed a global network of suppliers to ensure continuity through these difficult seasons allowing us to be flexible with our procurement.

Parripak believes that the changing dynamics in agricultural products over the last two years means that it will become essential for food manufacturers to contract their onion requirements much earlier. Normally this is done when the crop has been harvested, but in future it will become critical that contracts are completed before the crop goes into the ground.

As part of its growth programme, Parripak has invested in storage facilities to cover the whole year, and uses technology such as controlled atmosphere storage.

Surrounding farm areas at the Bedfordshire-based premises focus on growing allium-based crops, including brown and red onions, echallions, shallots and Supasweet onions.

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