Thursday, 06 June 2024 09:25

An industry that 'knows its onions'

Written by  Peter Burke
James Kuperus James Kuperus

Some smart planning by NZ’s onion growers has enabled them to quickly cash in on the Free Trade Agreement between New Zealand and the European Union which came into effect on May 1.

A key benefit of the FTA sees the removal of 9.6% tariffs on our onion exports there, a move that is expected to save our onion growers around $3 million annually. About 85% of the onions NZ produces are exported, mainly to Europe and Southeast Asia.

But with the 1 May deadline for the EU tariff removal looming, onion exporters decided to keep as much of their exports to the EU in customs facilities for a few weeks longer so that they could take advantage of the tariff free regime from the beginning of May.

Onions NZ chief executive James Kuperus says then on May 1 the onions were released from the customs facilities and were able to enter the EU duty free – “a great outcome for our people”. He says he’s not sure exactly what tonnage of onions were in storage but suggested that a figure of up to 35,000 tonnes total will enter the EU duty free this year.

“We’re very grateful to NZ Parliament for approving the FTA earlier than expected, allowing it to come into force when it did. Once we knew that, we were able to plan to gain the maximum benefit from this decision,” he says.

Kuperus says the FTA has come at a good time for the industry which has seen it bounce back from a couple of difficult years. He noted that about 40% of the onion crop in Hawke’s Bay was destroyed last year by Cyclone Gabrielle but the region has recovered well this season.

“Overall, we’ve had a very good growing season compared to other years, so our quality is much better. We have a much longer export season, we are going to be able to supply all our long-standing customers, so it’s been much kinder to our growers,” he says.

Kuperus says the outlook for the export of onions is good. He says there is increasing demand for the product and NZ is well placed to meet that demand – especially given our reputation for producing a high-quality product. He sees the key markets as Europe, Southeast Asia and China.

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