Finweek English Edition - - Economic trends & analysis - JO­HANN VAN ZYL

IT’S NOT AT all strange that SA’s Farmer of the Year for 2006, Louis de Kock of Wildeklawer near Barkly West, is an onion pro­ducer.

Over the past 20 years, this prod­uct has grown to the third­largest veg­etable crop, af­ter pota­toes and toma­toes, in SA and world­wide. The red onion, which was rel­a­tively un­known un­til a few years ago, is fast gain­ing ground.

Lo­cal onion sales over­took sales of toma­toes in 2005, when 251 451 tons of onions were sold on SA’s fresh pro­duce mar­kets, com­pared with the 238 415 tons of toma­toes. Thanks to this growth in de­mand, the price of onions in­creased by more than 8%, as against the 1,4% for toma­toes. Ac­cord­ing to Martin Smith, pro­duc­tion man­ager of the Du Toit group, SA’s three top pro­duc­tion ar­eas are Ceres in the West­ern Cape, the North­ern Cape and Limpopo.

Gary Lucier of the US De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture says that the restau­rant in­dus­try and the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of onions and gar­lic in gravies and cer­tain soups have re­sulted in the above-av­er­age con­sump­tion growth. Along with other veg­eta­bles such as mush­rooms, cu­cum­ber and green pep­pers, onions largely ac­count for the 23,6% growth in the per capita growth in veg­etable con­sump­tion over the past 20 years. How­ever, in the US, pro­cessed pota­toes (es­pe­cially chips for restau­rants and fast food out­lets) still showed the big­gest per capita growth: 50% in two decades.

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