New Zealand's first export organic onions have arrived in Europe — and the Kiwi exporter who grew them was there to open the container for the historical moment.
Leading New Zealand grower, Bostock New Zealand has exported organic onions for the first time as it moves to meet the growing demand for one of the world's most popular vegetables.
Bostock New Zealand owner John Bostock says there is a lot more labour and work required to grow organic onions as you can't reach for the chemicals to spray the weeds.
"Organic onions are very challenging to grow. It's a different mind and skill set altogether.
We can't use chemicals to spray the weeds. We have to hand-weed all our onions and we rely on expensive GPS technology to help with this weeding process.
"We will have over 200 staff weeding one onion paddock at the necessary time during the season. The team will each have a little knife and be hand weeding every individual onion plant. It's an intensive process having a whole field weeded by hand. There is so much care and nurture behind growing organic onions that people need to understand," John says.
"No pesticide sprays are used on our organic onions so the love these onions receive is quite something. Ultimately it means our organic onions are safer to eat because they are grown naturally. Consumers are becoming more aware of the use of chemicals on fresh produce, so we want to provide the safer organic alternative."
Bostock Organic growing manager Sam Reynolds is in Europe with some of the team to inspect the first container of organic export onions.
"It was very exciting to open the container and see that the quality of our Bostock organic onions was extremely good. They had been on the sea for six weeks, so we wanted to ensure that our European customers were receiving the highest quality New Zealand organic onions.
"We were so pleased to open the container and see our onions, looking the same as they did when they left our packhouse in New Zealand."
The Bostock team is meeting with other organic onion growers and service companies in Europe to build relationships and learn better growing techniques which they can apply in Hawke's Bay.
"We've visited some of the world's leading organic onion growers who are extremely transparent and have shared a lot of knowledge. We've picked up a lot of little tips and tricks that will refine our growing techniques bringing costs down and quality up.
"We've gained a better understanding of market requirements both in terms of quality and timing. There is a small but important overseas market window that New Zealand organic onions can fill in mid-April to mid-July every year."
John says the company is committed to increasing its organic footprint and is increasing its organic onion production.
"We need to ensure that our organic growing team is equipped with all the necessary skills required to grow the best organic onions in the world. Investing in technology and innovation is so important."