Onion growers report bumper season

Onion growers around the country are reporting a good season so far after a hard season last year, Onions New Zealand chief executive James Kuperus says.

''In South Canterbury, lifting and harvesting has commenced and by and large the growers are happy with the quality.''

Mr Kuperus said exports were under way for the year, with 6670 tonnes of onions shipped out this year to date.

''There have been few issues with the onions this year and we have a good crop to supply the domestic market and our export markets.''

Last year was an ''exceptionally difficult year,'' he said, with crop losses of approximately 20% to 25% due to drought and disease pressure.

''Rural bank managers around the country will be breathing a sigh of relief that onion growers are having a better year this year.''

He said onions were an important rotational crop in New Zealand.

''It is important to rotate what is growing in the soil year-to-year to reduce disease build-up.

''In New Zealand we are very fortunate that we have an ideal climate for growing vegetables and able to be by and large self-sufficient in vegetables.''

Over the past five years onions have always been the top exported fresh vegetable, except for in 2012 when New Zealand had a poor growing season. The exports of onions bring back around $100million per annum to the growers and the wider industry.

In figures from three years ago 5235 hectares of onions were grown commercially in New Zealand, supplying the domestic and export markets.

The production split was 14% in Canterbury, 67% in Franklin/Waikato, 14% in the Hawke's Bay, and 5% in Manawatu/Horowhenua. Brown and red onions are grown in all districts, although the varieties of each type grown vary between districts. Red onions now make up 11% of total area planted.

-By Chris Tobin

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