Consumers asked to look out for US imports of red onions

A report finding of imported onions from the US has interfered with an already crowded onion season in South Australia and Queensland, and Onions Australia has issued a warning to consumers and retailers to know the difference. 

During a market tour Onions Australia Chair Kees Versteeg said a number of imports were spotted. “Onions Australia has been campaigning for some time to have the imports stopped,” he added. “Australian onions are grown in the safest conditions, with our growers adhering to the strictest production standards second to none.”

Coles and Woolworths both have agreements in place to supply Australian onions, however independent retailers are not subject to the same agreement, and the industry body is concerned that even large retailers may not know for certain they are getting imported onions. 

While retailers might argue that during off-peak times imported onions can be high quality, Mr Versteeg pointed out that growers have worked hard to secure year round production in Australia, and consumers should not be fooled.
“We are aware that US red onions in particular have been stocked in independent retail outlets, marketed as Australian and they’re not,” said Onions Australia communications representative Lechelle Earl. “It’s hard to tell the difference with red onions, so we’d encourage people to ask retailers where their onions have come from.”

Red onions from the US will look ‘glossy’ and perfect, Ms Earl said, but would still have been on a boat for weeks, and would only be $1-$2 cheaper per unit maximum. 

At least two farms in South Australia, Virginia Farms and Zerella, have since confirmed over the phone that they do not import during the off-season, and will be waiting until they can source locally grown onions. “Buying Australian grown onions brings piece of mind and knowledge that the product is clean and green, posing no risk to consumers,” said Mr Versteeg. “There is no need for US onions to enter Australia, and no need for consumers to purchase them.”

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