The Czech Republic is known for its love of onions, with the vegetable ranking as the second most consumed in the country. Not only is it considered the queen of Czech cuisine, but it also has natural antibiotic properties and can help alleviate symptoms of flu and tonsillitis. Despite being grown under ideal conditions in the Czech Republic, the country is only 45% self-sufficient when it comes to onion production, meaning they have to import the vegetable from far-off countries.
At the beginning of May, shoppers at the Billa supermarket noticed new onions on the shelves, assuming they were Czech-grown. However, as the vegetable is typically harvested in the country later in the year, it was surprising to see it available so early. It turns out the onions had been imported from Egypt, with one kilogram of the vegetable costing 37.90 CZK at Billa and two CZK more at Albert.
According to the supermarkets, the reason behind the importation of Egyptian onions is the shortage of Czech onions from last year’s harvest. The quality of the onions was affected due to bad weather, resulting in a smaller crop than anticipated, and the quality of stored onions was poor.
At present, Egypt is the only country producing a new crop of onions, which is why supermarkets are currently importing them from there. They plan to import further supplies from the Netherlands, where the harvest has begun and the country is geographically closer to the Czech Republic.
Alice Kouřilová, spokesperson for the Zelinářská Unie Čech a Moravy (Czech and Moravian Vegetable Union), confirmed that onions from last season were sold out across the entire European market. As a result, vendors are importing onions from warmer countries that have a winter harvest.
Kouřilová stated that the current price of onions is influenced by the amount of the vegetable on the global market, with Egypt currently being one of the countries with an abundant supply. Since the climate in Egypt allows for earlier harvesting than in the Czech Republic, the vegetable is already available for export.
To meet the demand for onions in the Czech market, importation is necessary from countries like the Netherlands, Slovakia, and Germany. Although this is a common practice, it is not ideal for the country’s self-sufficiency in onion production. To address this, the Czech and Moravian Vegetable Union is working on supporting local growers and increasing their production capabilities.