The Onion Forum 2020 in St. Martin in der Pfalz was a success, according to both visitors and organisers.
Last Thursday and Friday, some 100 visitors arrived for the lunchtime reception. Under the direction of Agrarmarkt Informations-Gesellschaft mbH (AMI) and Rheinische Landwirtschafts-Verlag LLC, there were lectures over two days. Furthermore, there was more than enough time for networking, motivation training and a magic show for players in the onion industry from all over Germany and for the international visitors. The event was framed by the historical conference venue: Only a few kilometres away from Hambach Castle, the cradle of German democracy, the Hotel Haus am Weinberg was also a popular meeting place for former Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
Hans-Christoph Behr gave a welcoming speech in which he looked back on the past two years since the last Onion Forum, in 2018: "We have had two very different seasons, one with a very small harvest with shortages all over Europe, and a fairly good one. Exports are going well and Europe is ready to deliver." He also had a teaser for the first day of the event: "The big topic today will be crop protection - hopefully not only the concerns around this issue, but the solutions as well."
The second speaker of the welcome was Bernd Haas, the president of the German Onion Association, who called for joining the association in order to stabilize the cultivation and to strengthen the producers in relation to trade and politics. He too looked back on the past years with mixed feelings: "The weather is putting more and more pressure on the plants. In some federal states, the drought of 2018 was even exceeded in 2019 and irrigation bans were added to the difficulties". In order to counteract these factors there are many investments in the sector: expansion of land, new buildings, irrigation, improved storage capacities.
Furthermore, the association wants to continue the research into low calcium onions, different soils depending on the location, Fusarium and new varieties to address these problems. "These are exciting subjects but it's also very demanding."
Günter Hoos from the Dienstleistungszentrum Ländlicher Raum Rheinpfalz (Service Centre for Rural Areas in the Rhine-Palatinate) came to represent State Secretary Andy Becht. "The markets are open and they work - the German onion industry must distinguish itself", he advised those present. "One must give the products a face that shows more than just productivity. Show your entrepreneurial creativity: Do you have special varieties? Are there regional specialities? What is the aroma of your goods?"
For Hoos, climate change was an important aspect of future considerations: "This is an issue that will concern us all, because all parameters will change. The cultivation period will shift, so we will have to modify varieties and soils accordingly. These are questions of existence." He cited crop protection, climate change and labor shortages as the industry's problem children. "Many feel left in the cold by politicians - the demands on both onion farmers and vegetable producers are very high." He also points out the information opportunities at DLR.
The first day of the event was devoted to plant protection, followed by a trip around the world for onions, from Germany via the Netherlands to Brazil. In the evening there was mulled wine around the campfire, although some joked that with the spring-like daytime temperatures of 16°C, cocktails could have been offered. The evening program was rounded off by a magic show.
The second day of the forum started off early: "The world of technology" was the motto of the morning with insights into technical plant protection and cold storage. Pierre Bischoff concluded the day - the extreme sportsman gave a lecture on "Never giving up" and noted: "Cyclists and onion growers are not so different." At the lunch that followed, his 'Why-Worry-philosophy' was debated at many tables.
The event was characterized by a convivial get-together and lively discussions. Every lecture was followed by a round of Q&A's with the audience. Many opinions were shared and the speakers did their best to answer all questions and comments with wit and repartee. This will certainly make the Onion Forum a special feature in the event calendar of German onion producers and marketers in the future.
The magic of Boretti
Even Wilhelm Kerres from Gut Erzelbach, who was still sceptical before the event, drew a positive conclusion: "In fact, even after all these years in the onion industry, I still had something to learn."