A strategy to increase the profitability of New Zealand’s onion industry was unveiled last month by consultant Dr James Morrison and Onions New Zealand (ONZ) Chairman Michael Ahern at the ONZ AGM. It is now in the final process of being ratified by the industry, giving industry participants one more opportunity for feedback.

Mr Ahern highlighted in his address that the onion industry grew exports 17% in the current season compared to last year, and is contributing around $90 million in export receipts to the New Zealand economy. It is a quiet achiever in the sector. Having secured an independent levy in the last twelve months, good progress is being made across a lot of areas not least development of the industry strategy.

Dr Morrison said a strong New Zealand currency is adversely affecting onion export receipts and also giving a boost to overseas competitors who are increasing production aggressively. With most of the New Zealand crop destined for export markets, this is a key issue. While the focus of export markets has been shifting from Europe and towards Asia over the past decade, the industry desperately needs to create more options. He also recognised the challenges arising from the current economic environment, and the imperative to use resources sustainably. He told the meeting that the overwhelming direction from growers during a series of meetings held with growers was to increase profitability.

The answer to increasing profitability lies in four strategic themes. The first of these is developing export markets to create more options and reduce reliance on a few historical markets. This requires a good economic foundation, which is covered in the second theme to improve productivity. This means increasing the sustainable yield achieved by growers, as well as driving productivity improvements across the supply chain. Export success also requires a commitment to quality, essential to get priority placement and premium value in export markets. The third theme hence focuses on the enhancement of onion quality. The fourth theme takes a longer view, and puts forward options for the industry to invest in new approaches and processes to fully realise the potential of the New Zealand Onion industry.

Dr Morrison emphasises that the strategy is for the industry, and not just a plan for Onions New Zealand. Growers, exporters, R&D providers and government agencies all have key roles in achieving the result. The necessity of this broad involvement is evident in the initiatives that were outlined to the meeting and which can be found in the draft document currently in front of growers for their final consideration.

The strategy is due to be ratified at the next Onions New Zealand board meeting in December 2013.

For more information:
Michael Ahern
Onions New Zealand
Tel: +64 021 753 153
Email: secretary@onionsnz.com