Although large-scale commercial onion production began in Barbados about 1970, by 1987 77% of the annual demand was still being imported. Furthermore, exports declined from 7001 in 1972 to zero in 1987. The major factors that led to the decline in the industry were the seasonal production of the crop, 'blast' disease and the short shelf-life of the varieties grown. CARDI has been involved in a National Onion Development Programme, initiated in 1987, with the objective of removing these constraints to development of the onion industry. The other collaborators are the Ministry of Agriculture, onion growers, the University of the West Indies, the Sugar Technology Research Unit, and the Caribbean Meteorological Institute. The study undertaken by CARDI involved the testing of approximately 80 short and intermediate day onion varieties to select suitable high performance cultivars, adapted to climatic conditions in the Caribbean which would store well under ambient conditions. Two Israeli varieties, Grandstand and Arad, and Mercedes, a variety from the USA were selected because of their favourable yield and outstanding storability. These are the only varieties being produced commercially in Barbados at the present time. The period of availability of the local onion has been extended from 5 months in 1980 to 10 months in 1991. Export was restarted in 1995, with favourable response on bulb quality. There have been initiatives in onion production in St Kitts/Nevis, Grenada, St Vincent, Antigua and Montserrat. Transfer of technology from Barbados resulted in the transformation of the commercially grown varieties used in these countries between 1988 and 1993, with at least 9 0 ^ of the acreage cultivated to Grandstand and Arad. Although considerable progress has been made, constraints remain which must be addressed, e.g. the lack of adequate drying and storage facilities in all countries involved, control of weeds and 'blast' disease in the field, and the lack of proper production planning. The search for varieties tolerant to 'blast' continues.


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