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Members of Certified Onions Inc. will test 75 percent of onions produced in the Treasure Valley this season. President Kay Riley, who is also general manager of Snake River Produce Co. in Nyssa, OR, said Central Produce Distributors is the latest company to join the organization’s ranks. “We now have 25 members,” Mr. Riley told The Produce News Sept. 6.

COIKay Riley is president of Certified Onions.Certified Onions Inc. is a nonprofit organization in its fourth year of operation. Members voluntarily undergo stringent testing for off-label pesticide use and random maximum residue levels. Third-party auditing is performed at both the field and shed levels. Pathogen testing, which began two years ago, is also available.

In July, Mr. Riley said, “We emphasize consistent size and quality. [Looking at the 2012 crop], onion quality meets or exceeds expectations.”

From its inception, Certified Onions has worked to move product offshore. Mr. Riley said 50 loads of onions, each totaling 40,000 pounds, have been exported to Japan. “The onion quality has been very well received,” he said of the market. “There was good demand for exports during the summertime.”

One of the critical factors that has helped Certified Onions grow its offshore deal has been participation in trade missions to Japan. “People in Japan are more sensitive to issues like pesticide residues,” Mr. Riley commented. “They’re very concerned about health.” Some of this sensitivity comes from Japan’s geographic proximity to China.

This past March, Certified Onions participated in Foodex Japan, the largest food and beverage show in Asia. “That was very, very successful and led to a number of inquiries,” Mr. Riley said.

Export opportunities are also emerging in South Korea and Taiwan. Certified Onions continues to sell onions to Canada and Mexico under normal marketing programs.