THE largest horticulture levy recipient, Ausveg, has increased its representation footprint by absorbing Onions Australia through a strategic partnership.
Ausveg now becomes the national industry group for vegetable, potato and onion growers.
In a statement, Ausveg said the union was a result of "thorough industry consultation and a resounding vote from Onions Australia members".
Onions Australia chair, Darren Rathjen, said the merger ensured the onion sector maintained a significant voice within the broader vegetable and horticulture industry and that onion growers had access to greater levels of services and expertise.
"In light of a changing industry landscape and a need to secure industry representation and advocacy for onion growers, the Onions Australia Executive Committee sought an opportunity to bolster our ability to meet the needs of the Australian onion sector," Mr Rathjen said.
"In response to the wishes of our industry through a formal member vote, the executive committee has taken the decision to merge with Ausveg.
"This decision is a strategic one aimed at building a stronger future for Australia's onion sector, ensuring that our members' concerns are addressed promptly and efficiently by Ausveg."
"Moreover, this merger is an affirmation of our shared commitment to the betterment of the onion industry, which shares significant similarities and overlap with the vegetable sector."
TRANSITION-related activities are already underway, with operations from the Onions Australia office expected to move to the Ausveg office by the end of July.
According to Ausveg, the Onions Australia brand will be kept, with its specific content and services maintained in industry publications and online.
Ausveg chair Bill Bulmer said the merger marks a new era of growth and opportunity for the Australian onion industry, providing a robust platform for the future success of onion growers and the broader onion sector through its alignment with the broader vegetable sector.
"We recognise the legacy of the Onions Australia brand, with its decade's long history of representing the Australian onion sector," Mr Bulmer said.
"It is our intent to continue to recognise the dedication of those who have been instrumental in the history of Onions Australia and to build on this legacy to uplift the services and advocacy available to onion growers.
"The decision aims to maximise member benefits and promote industry-wide success for the broader vegetable, potato and onion sectors."
MR Rathjen thanked Onions Australia executive officer Lechelle Earl for her service over the decade.
"Even during the recent challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic, Lechelle has been a tireless advocate for the onion sector, and we wish her well with her future endeavours," Mr Rathjen said.
"Onions Australia looks forward to working with Ausveg on this new journey together. As chair, I sincerely thank Onions Australia members for their ongoing dedication and trust."
Ms Earl was instrumental in the surge in interest in onions after former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott took a bite out of a raw unpeeled onion when visiting a Tasmanian farm in 2015.
She personally took a basket of onions and presented it to Mr Abbott to thank him for supporting the industry.
Federal agriculture minister Murray Watt welcomed the move.
"Particularly at a time when food security is front of mind globally, it's so important that Australian agriculture has strong industry-led advocacy, to help grow the sector and also support farmers and the production chain," Mr Watt said.
"It's been a pleasure working with Onions Australia and I look forward to continuing that important work through Ausveg."
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