New Zealand’s onion industry is reaping the rewards of a strategic plan implemented three years ago, with year-on-year export returns anticipated to jump 50 per cent in 2016.
Michael Ahern, chief executive of Onions New Zealand, told Fairfax Media that international sales were forecast to generate NZ$125m this year, up from NZ$81m in 2015.
Ahern said growing awareness and demand for New Zealand products in Asia are driving much of this growth, with shipments to the Far East expected to account for 41 per cent of the export crop in 2016, compared to just 12 per cent in 2008. Europe remains the industry’s largest export market by volume and value.
"The onion industry developed a strategic plan in 2013 which focussed on four key pillars of productivity, export market development, quality and innovation," Ahern explained.
"It's very pleasing to see strong signs that our strategic planning is starting to pay off. We are also a readily scalable industry provided we have appropriate access to markets.”
Onions are New Zealand’s third largest horticultural export commodity by value, behind kiwifruit and pipfruit. Ahern said the industry’s standing is the result of continual product and market development.
“New Zealand started exporting onions over 50 years ago and now has 45 markets worldwide,” Ahern explained. “About 85 per cent of total production is exported and all of the major industry operators are 100 per cent New Zealand-owned. In the horticultural sector very few can match these statistics.”