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HomeNew ZealandTough growing season drives eye-watering onion prices

Tough growing season drives eye-watering onion prices


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Brown onions are about 72 cents per kg more than at this time last year.
Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

Onions are currently more expensive than usual due to a tough growing season and the increased price of things like fertiliser and diesel.

One retailer says the humble brown onion has gone up 200 percent. As for the red onion … it is even more expensive.

Stats NZ figures yesterday showed fruit and vege prices had jumped 17 percent on this time last year; with food price increases the highest in almost a decade and a half.

Onions New Zealand chief executive James Kuperus told Checkpoint a tough growing season had contributed to the high price of onions.

“It was very dry last December and January, that has led to a decrease in yield.”

Supply was tight at the moment because New Zealand was at the end of last season’s crop and the new season’s crop was about to be harvested, he said.

A decreased yield meant onions cost about 72 cents a kilo more than at this time last year, Kuperus said.

Other costs had also gone up and some of this had been passed on, he said.

“We’ve had fertiliser prices go up from around $900 a tonne to $2000, so that’s doubled; we’ve had agri-chemicals go up in price, diesel has gone up from 80 cents a litre to around $2 a litre over three years – so these increased inputs are double, sometimes nearly triple.”

New Zealand was now self sufficient in onions, he said.

“We were a net importer of onions until the 1920s when we bred the infamous Pukekohe long keeper and now we’re self sufficient.”

That meant onions that were harvested in April and May were stored and could still being consumed in November, he said.

“The amazing thing about New Zealand onions is that they can be stored a long time – it’s an incredible product that we grow here and we export around the world.”

Early season onions needed to be handpicked because they were a little softer, but the rest of the crop was mechanically harvested, he said.

And although New Zealand was generally self sufficient in brown onions it did need to import some red onions at the moment because they did not store as well as their brown counterparts, he said.

Red onions were harder to grow which was reflected in the higher price and New Zealand did export them as well, he said.

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