Australian vegetable, onion and melon industries set for $13.7 million export boost

Headshot of Shannon Verhagen
Australian vegetable, onion and melon industries are set for $13.7 million export boost.
Camera IconAustralian vegetable, onion and melon industries are set for $13.7 million export boost. Credit: Danella Bevis/Countryman

Australia’s melon, onion and vegetable growers are joining forces to make the most of strong demand and rising trade capacity to bolster exports for the $5.15 billion dollar sector.

The five-year, $13.7 million multi-industry program will be the first of it’s kind, delivered by Hort Innovation and led by AUSVEG, with support from Onions Australia and Melons Australia.

Hort Innovation head of trade Brei Montgomery called it the “ideal time” to launch the program aimed at bolstering the industry’s export capabilities and sustainability in years to come.

“COVID has presented challenges, but it has also resulted in new ways to engage stakeholders; the strengthening of relationships to eager markets and a desire for businesses to diversify to cater to this demand,” she said.

“For the onion, vegetable and melon industries, working together makes sense.

“They all share similar objectives to strengthen their overseas trade positions through a strategic, collaborative approach.”

Australia produces 3,831,301 tonnes ($4.9 billion) of vegetables annually, including 271,930 tonnes ($230 million) of onions, and grows 182,572 tonnes ($149 million) of melons, which include rockmelons, honeydews and watermelons.

Of that, 215,374 tonnes ($264 million) of fresh vegetables are exported, including 49,511 tonnes ($30.4 million) of onions (fresh and dried), while 12,890 tonnes ($26.5 million) of melons are sent overseas.

WA growers produce 18 per cent of Australia’s 50,327 tonnes of muskmelons (rockmelon and honeydew), growing 9464 tonnes from May to October.

They also produce 14 per cent of Australia’s watermelons, with Kununurra one of the major growing regions, producing 16,096 tonnes from May to October, of which 280 tonnes are exported.

Of the country’s total onion crop, WA produces about 10 per cent, harvesting 26,027 tonnes in 2021-22, of which 8,907 tonnes ($6.2 million) was exported.

Ms Montgomery said the Multi-Industry Export Program — which will include market intelligence data and insights for growers — would leverage and build on the great reputation of Australian produce.

“Australia has a reputation for delivering quality produce that has adhered to the most stringent standards across all supply chain stages,” she said.

The program will collate international market information for growers to use in decision making, while providing tailored advice on value-adding for export and provide growers opportunities to re-engage with export markets and networks.

AUSVEG chief executive Michael Coote said uplifting the ability of exporting growers to service a wider range of markets and channels and expand international trade opportunities would be prioritised.

“The Australian vegetable industry has invested significantly in export development to help growers successfully export fresh Australian vegetables over the past decade, and as a result has built solid relationships and industry know-how that will benefit vegetable growers, as well as those in the onion and melon industry, which face similar issues with exporting as many vegetable growers,” he said.

Melons Australia chief executive Johnathon Davey said he “looked forward to working with AUSVEG, Hort Innovation and the broader melon industries to increase the capabilities of melon growers to service new and existing international markets”.

“The melon industry has identified growing export markets as a key priority for the industry moving forward, and it makes sense for our industry to work with AUSVEG in this project,” he said.

Onions Australia executive committee member and exporter Tim Groom said the multi-industry export program will support a strong history of successful trade and relationship building.

“The Australian onion industry is the second largest vegetable crop exported in Australia with a significant portion of mature growers who have a strong export focus,” he said.

“What this program will do is underpin decades of hard work by the industry and offer new insights and approaches that build on our success.

“Onions Australia has been working for several years now to increase our focus on strong export programs and is looking forward to supporting our growers to access this new program.”

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