The onion harvest in the southern Italian province of Bari is underway and it appears that yields are already declining. "We are now in the middle of the harvest and we are trying to move up a gear to get ahead of any weather change. We needed rain in April and May, not now," said Vito Abrusci, director of the growers' association La Vera Cipolla Rossa di Acquaviva delle Fonti.
The yield is below average because the onions are smaller. "We had to do some irrigation, but it was not possible to get bigger sizes this year either, at least not with our strict cultivation protocols. While in other years we could easily get onions of 1.2 to 1.5 kilograms, this year we have been in the order of 500 - 700 grams for the largest ones. Still, that's not such a problem. Nature takes its course, and the quality of the onions has not been suffering from the lack of water."
The onions are not only sold in the region. "We also have many customers in the north of Italy, where they appreciate this characteristic onion. We have named them "The Real Red Onion of Acquaviva", because there are many counterfeits on the market, which may pass the test in terms of appearance, but cannot match our taste at all. We are the only ones who have the guarantee of certified seed thanks to a collaboration with a university," said Abrusci.
"Our product is very sweet, different from all other onions. It is a flat, purplish onion, which in the best years can reach a diameter of 20 cm," concluded Abrusci.
There are about 20 affiliated growers who use the traditional cultivation method, which involves a lot of hand work, a rotation schedule with black chickpeas and green manures, and a manual harvest in not too comfortable conditions.