Capitalise on top crop, says onion boss

UK growers told to take advantage of bumper harvest and drop in imports to drive up market share.

This year's bumper harvest can help drive up the market share of UK-grown onions, the chairman of the British Onion Producers Association (BOPA) told the UK Onion & Carrot Conference this week.

Robert Oldershaw said: "This year we have had fantastic quality and yield, and that abundance is an opportunity and a threat. With 500,000 tonnes, it's hard to find a home for it all.

"Wholesale has been dominated by the Dutch, and UK growers have rarely got a look-in. But this year there is variable quality in the Dutch crop due to wet harvest conditions. This is the time to capitalise - the door is open, and we can build a bigger share for future years."

Imports from Australia, New Zealand and Spain are also down this season, he added. "We have the potential to take self-sufficiency from 60-65 per cent to 80 per cent. Looked at that way, we don't have too many onions."

This challenge could best be met through concerted action by BOPA, he said. "But membership is lacking. We need strength in numbers."

Oldershaw's call echoed the message from farming minister Jim Paice, who told the event: "The British fruit sector has gone from providing 23 per cent of our needs to 37 per cent. If we can do the same with vegetables, we will be moving a long way."

Key Stat

500,000 tonnes of onions harvested across the UK this year - annual consumption in the UK is 600,000 tonnes

Big push PR picked

The British Onion Producers' Association has taken on a new PR company, Phipps, to drive forward its promotional work next year.

"Eighty per cent of the population already buys onions, so the question is how we increase their consumption," said chairman Robert Oldershaw.

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