When we think of onions in the UK, we tend to think of Spain, France, Morocco and even Italy.
But now with the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement (A-UKFTA), we can add Tasmanian onions to the list.
‘Due to the onion shortage in Europe, we receive more requests for onions from UK retailers than we could possibly fill,’ says Sam Vasala, Director of Sai World. Sai World is the exclusive marketer for Australian onion grower and packer Perfecta.
Europe’s current high onion prices are driven by the heatwave and drought in last summer’s growing season. Tariff cuts under the A-UKFTA, which came into effect on 31 May 2023, is enabling Australia’s good growing year to fill the shortfall.
‘The A-UKFTA dropped the tariffs on Australian onions from 8% to zero,’ says Ezz Farghaly, SAI World’s Operations & Sales Coordinator. ‘Now Australian produce can be competitive in the UK and European markets.
Farghaly expects more orders for Tasmanian “long day” onions. ‘These onions have a great shelf life and can be stored for up to one year,’ he explains.
‘Tasmanian onions are remarkable. They keep their quality and flavour. The feedback we have had from our distributors in Rotterdam and Hamburg, where we have been shipping the onions for some time, has been excellent.’
Between February and April 2023, SAI World shipped 90 containers, with 26 tonnes of onions per container. SAI World is planning a weekly service to supply leading retailers in the UK and Europe to meet demand.
Perfecta Produce, as part of SAI World, is Tasmania's longest established onion producer and exporter. It grows 10,000 tonnes of onions a year. Since starting in 1984, it has built a reputation for customer satisfaction based on a history of quality products, quick response and timely service.
Onions are planted from seed from May until September each season. The land is selected from growers in the northwest coast region of Tasmania where the volcanic soil is rich and fresh water is plentiful.
‘Perfecta Produce has solid experience exporting onions,’ says Alberto Oliva Macias, Austrade’s Senior Business Development Manager in the UK. ‘This places it in a strong position to support retailers and foodservice operators in the UK. Its export destinations also include Japan, Southeast Asia and the EU.’
Austrade was instrumental in connecting SAI World to new business.
‘We recently started working with SAI World as part of the Fruit Logistica trade show, which takes place in Germany every year,’ says Oliva.
After conversations with UK importers and distributors of fresh produce, Oliva discovered several importers were looking for onions.
‘Perfecta would be a good match and the A-UKFTA came into effect at the right time,’ he says.
‘That’s one of the real values of the FTA,’ adds Oliva. ‘In this case, there is a product shortage on one side of the world that can easily be filled from the other side of the world, and vice versa.
‘In this way Austrade is contributing to the growth of Australian exporters, and working with UK retailers to ensure they can continue to offer high-quality products at affordable prices from a reliable supplier.’
As well as Tasmanian onions, SAI World offers citrus, apples, cherries and stone fruits.