Home' Grower : June 2013 Contents The South Australian Grower -- June 2013
Japanese onion growers
refine production methods
By STEVE McARTHUR
ONLY 15 per cent of
Japan's land mass is
suited to arable crops,
which explains why it imports
about 60pc of its food
It has the third largest economy
in the world and the tenth largest
There is fierce competition to
supply the Japanese people with
food, not only from producers in
the United States, the European
Union and its close neighbour
China, but a highly subsidised and
protected Japanese producer.
As Asia adopts a more
westernised dietary lifestyle, its
consumption of onions -- a
common ingredient -- is on the
The popularity of fast food
restaurants and more convenient
meal solutions have reduced their
use of traditional vegetables.
Onion consumption in Asia is
varied, with other alliums such as
garlic and bunching onions a
South Korea leads the way,
consuming 23 kilograms a person
each year. This compares to
China's 1kg and Japan's 5kg.
China is the dominant force in
Asia's onion market, accounting
for half of its total production.
Exports from China in recent
years have had a major impact on
the Asian market, especially Japan.
Before 2000, the United States
of America and New Zealand
were the main suppliers to Japan.
Since then, China has dominated,
exporting 270,000 tonnes -- 73pc
of all onions to Japan -- in 2011.
Japan grows about 22,000
hectares of onions, with average
marketable yields of 48t/ha.
The market is split, with half
sold as fresh produce through
wholesale markets and the balance
By volume, half of Japan's
onions are grown at the
Hokkaido region in its north.
Kitami, a city in the north-east
part of Hokkaido, is home to the
largest onion producer
cooperative in the region -- the
The volcanic soil in Hokkaido is
low in soil pH and fertility, but
farmers use their expertise to
Agricultural cooperatives play a
very important role in the onion
market, ser ving to stabilise prices
and ensure domestic demand.
Kita-Mirai has 1200 farmer
stakeholders whose key areas of
activity are production, marketing
Annually, 520 well-resourced
Kita-Mirai growers produce
250,000t from 4400ha,
representing more than 40pc of
Onion sowing starts late
February and continues until mid-
March. Hybrid seeds are sown
into plastic trays which are then
placed on the soil in plastic tunnel
houses. Seedling trays are covered
in double-layered insulated plastic
film to maintain a high
temperature for optimal
The plastic is removed after
emergence and the onions grow
through the extremely cold winter
under the shelter of the tunnel
houses. The seedlings are large
enough for transplanting 65 to 70
days from sowing.
The tops of the onion plants are
trimmed before planting, so that
they fit the automatic planting
At maturity, the onion bulbs are
undercut mechanically by a
purpose-built lifter, and left to
cure for two to three weeks. A
modified potato digger is used to
har vest the onions which are then
taken to a separate stationary
topping machine located near the
After topping and sorting, the
onions are kept in steel containers
that hold 1300kg until sorting at
the grading station.
When required, they are packed
into 20kg cardboard boxes for the
The grading stations for the
fresh market onions operate daily
Gaps in an onion crop being filled manually -- every plant counts in
Transplanting onion seedlings automatically at Kitami, Japan.
A demonstration of mechanical onion transplanting at JA Saga
Agricultural Research Centre, Japan.
Long-term onion storage in cages for processing.
from August to April, packing
onions for market.
Kita-Miri has eight grading
stations to pack the crop, the
largest of which ships 50,000t
To use their entire crop, Kita-
Miri has a stake in Greens Kitami,
a large processor of onions in
Greens Kitami sautés and dices
15,000t of onions each year into
products for use in the food
ser vice industry.
The Japanese government
strongly support agriculture and
its research -- Hokkaido has eight
The farmers work well together,
pooling resources to ensure
optimum outcome, and better
outcomes for stakeholders.
The country has shown how
• Steve McArthur is an agribusiness con-
sultant who owns Vigour, New Zealand.
Market tour bustles with ideas
By LECHELLE EARL,
Acting CEO, Onions
THE Onions Australia conference in
Melbourne last month ended on a
About 30 industry representatives
gathered for a series of informative
sessions and field trips on the
theme Moving on in Melbourne.
The conference started with a
meeting of the Onions Australia
executive committee, before
launching into a full day of
Growers representing every state
in Australia undertook an early
morning guided tour of the
Melbourne wholesale fruit,
vegetable and flower market.
The market's marketing manager
David Fussell guided them through
the bustling venue where they had
a chance to speak with onion
wholesalers and other vegetable
The tour continued on to Bejo
Seeds, where staff gave an
insightful presentation about new
breeding opportunities and updated
growers on seed technology.
There were updates from Crop
Protection Research about a
fungicide efficacy trial, details of
new machinery available from
Dobmac Machinery in Tasmania,
and information about J-Tech
Systems' new website.
Onions Australia chairperson
Andrew Moon said he was pleased
with the strong representations
"Onions Australia is making a
concerted effort to host informative
sessions which are accessible to all
growers," he said.
"We are now looking forward to
our annual conference, to be held at
Mannum, South Australia, on
October 2 and 3.
"We have already secured Dr Bill
Dean, who is the director of
Research and Development at the
US's largest onion growing
operation River Point Farms.
"There will also be several
informative sessions for those
attending, plus a series of grower
Onions Australia's May conference
was supported by strategic partners
J-tech Systems, Crop Protection
Research, Dobmac Machinery, Bejo
Seeds, and AgNova Technologies.
Details: 0458 111 126,
Bejo Seeds director Tony
participants taking a tour of
their operation at the
Melbourne wholesale market.
some onions at
Links Archive May 2013 July 2013 Navigation Previous Page Next Page