Global Trade in Fresh Onions, Shallots: A Snapshot


By Mark Wocial, Certified Global Business Professional, Wocial & Associates LLC


In 2016, global trade in fresh onions and shallots involved approximately 7.9 million metric tons (MT) and was valued at about $3.2 billion. Asia and Europe accounted for about 70 percent of onion exports and 60 percent of imports by volume. Countries in Asia exported 3 million tons of onions and imported 2.4 million tons. India and China were the largest exporting countries in Asia, while Malaysia, Bangladesh, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines were the largest importers.

The European countries exported 2.7 million tons and imported 2 million tons. The Netherlands was by far the largest exporter of onions in Europe, followed by Spain, France, Turkey and Poland. The Netherlands was also the third largest importer, behind the United Kingdom and Germany.

North America exported 800,000 tons of onions and imported 780,000 tons, with the U.S. accounting for 40 percent of exports and 67 percent of imports.

The Middle East exported 526,000 tons and imported around 1.2 million tons of onions. The largest importing countries in the region were the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, while Egypt was the dominant exporter.

Countries on the African continent exported 360,000 tons of onions, with South Africa, Sudan, Niger and Yemen as the largest exporters. Africa imported 750,000 tons of onions. Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire Ethiopia and Ghana were among the largest importers.

South America exported 330,000 tons and imported 310,000 tons. Peru was the largest onion exporter and Brazil the largest importer in the region. Exports from Oceania were estimated at 230,000 tons. New Zealand accounted for over 80 percent of exports. The region imported 32,000 tons, and Fiji was the largest importer. Central America exported 38,000 tons and imported 132,000 tons. Guatemala accounted for most exports, while El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua were the largest importers. The Caribbean region imported 36,000 tons of onions, and Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica were the largest importers.


Author’s note: This information is based on the author’s analysis of the United Nations International Trade Statistics Database. The U.N. Statistics Division gathers import and export statistics from 160 reporting countries which account for almost all trade worldwide. The export and import numbers presented for each geographic region include both cross-border trade within and outside of a given region.

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