ONIONS Australia chairman Peter Shadbolt has pulled no punches in his New Year address to growers, saying producers are receiving "pathetically low prices" for their crops.
The address was part of the Onions Australia January newsletter.
Mr Shadbolt said there was a stark contrast already between last year's almost-record high prices growers were receiving and the low figures kicking off the 2018 season.
"We have had reports of growers being offered as little as $2.50 for a 10kg bag into Sydney Markets," Mr Shadbolt said.
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"That’s pretty hard to swallow when you see the retail prices in the supermarkets and greengrocers.
"This drives home the message that every onion should have a home before it goes into the ground – it really is as simple as that."
He said Onions Australia was determined to continue to look for overseas avenues to expand exports and relieve the domestic oversupply.
"Already potential growth markets have been identified in Malaysia, Japan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Singapore," he said.
In the 2015/16 year, Australia exported 43,887 tonnes of onions with a value of $28.6 million (Global Trade Atlas), which accounted for 15 per cent of total production for that year.
Europe is by far the biggest market for Australian onions, accounting for about 50pc of all exports.
Although the statistics record Belgium as being the biggest market, most of the export is going to Germany through Belgian traders.
Mr Shadbolt said almost all of the trade is in the European counter-season to Australia.
"It can therefore be a fluctuating market, depending on the quality of the European harvest," he said.
"This trade is extremely price sensitive and highly dependent on the seasonal conditions in Europe and the ability of European growers to successfully store local product."
Onions Australia says exports to Europe in the second quarter (the seasonal window that Australia fills) are steadily declining, indicating Australia is losing market share to Egypt and Peru.
Freight costs are increasingly making Europe a less profitable export destination than Asia and the Middle East.
"There are good prospects to grow onion exports, despite the decline in market share of the European market," Mr Shadbolt said.
"Export opportunities could be developed in Asia and the Middle East through Australia’s seasonal advantage over northern hemisphere suppliers."
He said there was a project being undertaken in conjunction with Horticulture Innovation Australia to develop a five-year holistic and diversified export market development plan.
"I know current situations make sitting in harvesters difficult, but with an eye on the future and through working together as an industry there are good signs ahead," Mr Shadbolt said.
The story Onions boss slams retail prices, warns of tough year ahead first appeared on Good Fruit & Vegetables.