Kalfresh managing director Robert Hinrichsen with the Queensland onion which is getting a plug in a national advertising campaign encouraging people to buy local produce.
Kalfresh managing director Robert Hinrichsen with the Queensland onion which is getting a plug in a national advertising campaign encouraging people to buy local produce. Rob Williams

No more tears for onion growers

TWO years ago major supermarkets were importing onions rather than using Queensland-grown ones.

The yellow, thin-skinned Queensland products weren't wanted by consumers, who preferred the browner Californian onions.

However, the dominance of American onions may be on the wane thanks to a genetic program for local onions and an upcoming advertising campaign.

Robert Hinrichsen, managing director of the biggest onion procuder in the state, Kalfresh, said while Queensland onions were more popular than ever, imports remained a threat.

"We're still worried about imported products," he said.

"We need people to keep buying Australian onions; (American) producers can grow and ship them into Australia for cheaper than we can grow them."

Mr Hinrichsen said he hoped the advertising campaign by Onions Australia would encourage people to look out for Australian onions.

"A campaign encouraging people to buy Australia, buy local and buy fresh would be fantastic," he said.

"When people are buying food they should be thinking about more than what's cheap.

"Fresh food is our game.

"Our onions haven't been in a container for months; we're packaging gear today that'll be in stores tomorrow."

The advertising campaign will be funded by a levy from farmers.

Mr Hinrichsen said Kalfresh will fill 30,000 400kg bins of onions this year.

Until a campaign to improve Queensland onions began two years ago, locally produced onions weren't as brown or as hard and often didn't have the shelf life that southern Australian or American onions had.

Most Australian onions are grown in southern states for nine months of the year, with Queensland growers producing for only three months after the southern states' growing season has ended.

Onion oddities

Onions were worshipped in ancient Egypt because of their spherical shape and concentric rings.

In medieval Europe onions were were so highly valued they were used to pay rent.


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