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Organisation gets behind Australian onion growers

Australia's peak industry body for onions is throwing its support behind the Queensland onion industry which is currently faced with an influx of US red onion imports.

Onions Australia has been undertaking an extensive education and information campaign after concerns were raised that independent retailers were selling imported red onions from the USA – despite the Queensland red onion season being in full swing.

Some retailers are even selling imported US onions but labelling them as Australian onions, according to Onions Australia Chairperson Kees Versteeg.
“Onions Australia is urging independent retailers to stay true to their commitments to support Australian Growers and sell Australian onions rather than imported onions,” he said.

“And Queensland consumers are being urged to support their local onion growers.
“Onions Australia is undertaking a concerted campaign to encourage Queensland retailers to turn their back on imports and to support local growers who are currently harvesting premium product.”

Mr Versteeg said Onions Australia had initiated discussions with some independent retailers who had indicated that they would tackle the problem.

“The disappointing aspect of this situation is that it is not illegal to import US red onions, but the reality is that Queensland onion growers are losing sales due to US imports – at a time when the local red onion production is at its peak,” he said
“The major supermarket chains have committed to only stocking Australian onions, a decision that we absolutely applaud.

“However, there are independent supermarkets, fruiterers and green grocers out there who keep demanding that locals support their businesses, yet they are failing to support their local growers – some of whose local farms are based only a few kilometres up the road!”

Mr Versteeg said Onions Australia had telephoned and written to the fresh produce managers of all independent supermarket chains, and some positive discussions had ensued.

“We are hopeful that the independents are now aware that there is a plentiful supply of Australian red onions coming into the markets and that they will choose to stock those onions, rather than imported USA red onions,” he said.

“Imported red onions from the USA are imported by only a few importers and with current good domestic red onion supply from Queensland are being dumped in our domestic market. They find their way from the few importers to the many wholesalers and traders in each of our state’s fresh produce markets and ultimately find their way to the shelves of the independent supermarkets, fruiterers and green grocers.

“Under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement, dumping is condemned (but is not prohibited) if it causes or threatens to cause material injury to a domestic industry in the importing country. There is word that more of these red onions are on their way from the USA to our shores and current stock is being ‘dumped’ at ridiculous low prices to make way for the next lot.

“We are asking everyone in this supply chain - especially the fresh produce wholesalers, traders, and agents in each of the states - to get back on track and/or stay the course when it comes to supporting Australian produce, Australian growers and their families. In the spirit of Christmas but moreover in the spirit of supporting the Australian growers and their families - on which your business is built and your livelihood depends upon – we ask you to think twice before handling imported produce when there’s ample supply available from our Australian growers!

“As someone once said: ‘There is such a thirst for gain; that it is enough to make one curse their own Species, for possessing so little virtue and patriotism’.
“And we need to remember that in previous years concerns have been raised that some US imports may have come from US regions that are not free from onion smut.”

For more information:
Lechelle Earl
Onions Australia
Tel: 0061 458 11 11 26

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