‘Humble’ onion to undergo extreme makeover

The ‘humble’ onion is about to undergo an extreme makeover, with the Government investing $2.83 million in a programme to enhance the competitive advantage of New Zealand’s onion industry, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced today.

Onions New Zealand and the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund will jointly invest $6.02 million in a six-year integrated programme called ‘Humble to Hero: Transforming the New Zealand Onion Industry’.

“Consumers around the globe are increasingly looking for values-based products that are light on the environment, and sustainably produced. This programme seeks to differentiate our onions from those produced in the rest of the world,” Damien O’Connor said.

“Last week we announced our FTA with the UK, which from day one will remove the 8 per cent tariff on onions. With developments like that and an investment like this, it’s an exciting time to be working with Onions New Zealand to transform our onion industry.

“We’re aiming to be the champion nation for producing top-quality onions with low inputs.

“This will include showing we have a reliable and traceable product, tackling industry greenhouse gas emissions, exploring smarter options to reduce waste, and embedding sustainable growing systems more widely. Each of these will add layers of value to discerning consumers.

“The ‘Humble to Hero’ programme complements our Fit For a Better World roadmap to increase exports, lower emissions, improve the environment and employ more people in the food and fibre sector – helping to boost economic recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Through the SFF Futures the Government has to date co-invested more than $142 million into 163 industry projects worth almost $313 million in total.” 

Damien O’Connor said New Zealand has been exporting onions since the 1960s.

“New Zealand’s onion industry punches well above its weight globally, and there is still significant opportunity to expand. It’s time to move out of the commodity market and capture emerging high-value opportunities.

“Last year, onions brought $137 million of export revenue into the country. The industry is targeting a $31 million increase in export value by 2027. The programme seeks to work with industry, by investing in targeted research and boosting sustainable growing practices,” Damien O’Connor said.