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Sweet onions on sale soon

21 May, 2010

Industry & Investment NSW (I&I) Chemistry Services Laboratory at Wagga Wagga has recently tested Australia’s first batch of sweet onions, which will hit the shelves later this year.

Moonrocks Australia, a grower of brown onions in Queensland, is Australia’s first certified sweet onion grower.

I&I chemist at Wagga Wagga, Richard Meyer, said the certification process was a first in Australia because previously onions have been marketed as sweet, but with no distinction as to what characteristics define a sweet onion.

The certification program is managed and delivered by National Onion Laboratories, a Georgia based company, who have successfully supported the mild onion industry in the US.

Mr Meyer said the onions presented a new product to the Australian consumer, and hopes were high of developing a sweet onion industry similar to that found in America.

"The benefits of sweet onions are lower acid and higher sugar levels. This creates an onion that retains its taste, but allows it to be eaten raw or on sandwiches and salad with none of the burning or tears associated with the everyday brown onion.

"There is also evidence to suggest that offering the consumers a choice, can drive onion consumption up dramatically," he said.

Mr Meyer said the Australian sweet onion industry was still in its infancy and was looking to develop volumes domestically before exports start. However, he said interest has already been received from south east Asia and the Pacific Islands.

"Mild/sweet onions have huge potential in offering consumers a product which offers low pungency, while still retaining full flavour, and allows growers to differentiate their products commanding a premium price," Mr Meyer said.

The Chemistry Services Laboratory, which developed its rapid testing procedure with support from Horticulture Australia and Onions Australia, has been offering a service to growers, producers and seed companies for the past four years and has tested 300 such batches of onions this season alone.

"This involved testing onions that were tasted by panels and the public. Factors affecting onion pungency include variety, soil type and nutrient levels, as well as irrigation and environmental factors," Mr Meyer said.

Source: Industry & Investment NSW