Happy New Year, OB friends! We wish you the most prosperous year ever, buoyed by the optimism that keeps this industry not just alive but thriving. Here’s to a terrific start to 2018 – and here’s a look back at what we experienced in 2017.
Most of you know the info for our Market Updates and Crop Reports is gathered just hours before we publish. By keeping it fresh, we believe we’re are better able to show you emerging trends and which production areas are cleaning up or starting.
So here you go, a look back at each quarter in 2017, starting with the first of the year and ending with this period. A Chinese proverb says, “May you live in interesting times.” Yep. We do.
The insane January weather in the Northwest caused both physical and monetary havoc, with snow and ice knocking down storage sheds and some packing facilities in the Treasure Valley and also north in Washington. Transportation was hampered as well, with major highways shut down during the storms’ worst days. With some storage product lost and difficulty moving onions from storage to packing and then on to market, prices spiked for a time. By the end of the month, shippers in all regions were reporting hard-to-keep-up-with demand, and prices had doubled and even tripled from the holidays. The Treasure Valley was digging out from the snow but keeping its collective shoulder to the wheel.
As markets rocked and rolled, 2017 crops were seeing excellent conditions, as reported by our contacts in Georgia, California Imperial Valley, Texas Rio Grande Valley, New Mexico and Mexico. Georgia had seen a January warming trend that was moving the crop forward quickly, but normal cool weather returned. New Mexico was reporting the best conditions in years; California contacts said the drought was ending; Mexico had ideal conditions; the Rio Grande Valley was looking great in January.
By early February Mexico had come in earlier than normal and with more onions than normal. Demand and pricing had slipped but in most cases was still being reported as higher than during late 2016. Some shippers in Western Colorado and Utah were cleaning up, and Treasure Valley shippers were staying in the game. Mid-month saw markets in the West dipping lower and demand was described by one shipper as “fair at best.”
Mexico and Peru accounted for more than 25 percent of shipments, with Mexico more than tripling its loads. Mexico continued to come in with plentiful supplies; some shippers were reporting tight supplies for medium yellows. Going into the final week of February we were hearing from Washington that demand for that state’s hybrids was steady.
Treasure Valley market had slipped a bit more, with pricing down and pressure continuing from Mexican crossings. But quality remained excellent, one shipper noted. Some sheds in South Texas were shipping, with good quality. Mexico had good demand and was moving mediums and more jumbos. Peru onions were also seeing steady movement.
All crop updates throughout February were positive, with good weather and growing conditions reported in California’s Imperial and Central Valleys, Mexico, New Mexico and Vidalia. All crops at that time were on track.
March did not roar in like a lion when it came to onion market reports. The first week of the month had shippers in Washington calling prices “pretty weak,” and demand was “so-so.” Quality was good from the Evergreen State, and sizing was mostly mediums and smaller jumbos. In the Treasure Valley demand was fair, and jumbo yellows were in higher demand. Some sheds had cleaned up their whites in both Washington and Idaho-Eastern Oregon. Mexico continued with its big numbers, and its smaller onions were filling demand. One shipper expected his Mexican deal to be finished by early to mid-April. Mid-March brought reports of good supplies and quality from our Wisconsin sources, and Texas was seeing a slowdown in harvest due to rain. The Treasure Valley had mixed reports, with some shippers seeing a pickup in movement and others status quo on the slower side. The overall market was in somewhat of a flux, switching from old to new crop. Storms in the Northeast didn’t bring a big bump in demand or prices. And in late March the Mexican market was described as “sloppy,” with more shippers getting into the deal and business not picking up. More Rio Grande Valley shippers were moving 1015s during late March.
Nevada was shipping its last loads of 2016 onions, and the Imperial Valley was picking up steam for its start. Some Idaho-Eastern Oregon shippers had ended their season and others were getting close. Demand was said to be steady by those still in, particularly for yellows. A few growers were getting out into the fields. New York cited steady market and demand, with good supplies in all colors and sizes.
Again, good conditions being reported in most regions throughout March. Late month saw some rain delays in the Central Valley of California and also in Nevada. South Texas had rain, but warm temps and winds were helping, our contacts said. Northern Colorado was planted, and the San Luis Valley saw a crop go in as well.
Spring had sprung in early April, with Georgia Sweets out the door ahead of the Vidalia start date of April 12. Wisconsin was reporting steady demand and a finish in late April or early May. Medium yellows with good quality were the last of Wisconsin’s 2016 volume. The Treasure Valley weighed in with good news that “really good demand” was calling for big sizes in yellows. More sheds were cleaning up. Texas onions were moving well for the most part, and some shippers were predicting a shorter crop due to rain in late March and early April. The Northwest had “a lot of onions” remaining in storage, and one shed looked to ship “well into May.”
Mexico was going into its last week or two for one shipper, and others had already moved on to other areas. Quality out of Mexico was said to be excellent in early April. By mid-month California’s Imperial Valley was moving product, and we were getting great reports of outstanding quality from the Brawley area. Idaho-Eastern Oregon had seen increased demand due to Easter, and most of the region’s shippers were finished for the season. We were told about eight continued to ship at that time, with demand moderating and FOB increasing. Quality coming out of cold storage was described as “beautiful.” We also were told the market seemed stronger. The Rio Grande Valley, some of which came into the market early, was seeing some shippers wrapping up two to three weeks early as well. Market reports out of the Valley were that it was “reacting well.” Parts of Mexico were ending early, too. Late April brought news of good supplies out of shipping areas.
The Imperial Valley had good quality, and prices on new crop onions were reported to be good. Some Arizona product started shipping with good supplies the last week of the month, and the crop was said to be of good quality after a favorable growing season. Idaho-Eastern Oregon had a few shippers still moving good quality storage from 2016, but most had cleaned up or were looking to by May 8-10. Last loads from the Rio Grande Valley were shipping on April 26 for one shed, with the market ending at $12 after starting at $6. Another Texas shipper said he’d be running 1015s another 10 days to two weeks. Mexico started out of Chihuahua and was expected to go into mid-June, and the Georgia sweet deal continued to gain momentum. Up in New York demand had slowed as buyers decided whether to go with new crop or buy storage.
The Central Valley in California was coming along on schedule, and the Walla Walla Sweet crop was also progressing well, perhaps a little behind but catching up. Treasure Valley growers were busy getting the 2017 crop in the ground, getting into the fields as Mother Nature allowed between rain storms. Wisconsin was getting ready to plant in early April, and Vidalia was “ramped up for the new season” and a start date of April 12. Storms hit that region just after the first of the month. Many Idaho-Eastern Oregon growers were one-third or less in the ground, but conditions were improving as the fields dried out. Colorado was for the most part in the ground, and Wisconsin was preparing fields in early April. New Mexico shippers were looking at a mid- to third week of May start for the 2017 crop, with reports of great quality and excellent volume.
In Georgia, a severe weather forecast the first week of the month had the industry in a tizzy, but most of the bad weather skirted the onion fields. Mid-April crop reports out of areas of the Imperial Valley that had not started shipping were that harvest and first loads were expected the last half of the month. Sizing was normal for some – jumbos on yellows – and smaller for other shippers. Warm weather was helping the crop finish. Up in Washington growers were still planting, and rain was still coming down. Walla Walla was predicting a mid-June start, with good stands reported. Idaho-Eastern Oregon was seeing rain as well, and growers were in the fields between showers. Winter Garden, TX, was looking for an early May start, and onions were described as “the prettiest… we’ve had in 2017.” All of Colorado’s onions were in the ground. Late April crop reports out of the Imperial Valley told us harvest crews were moving fast to get onions into storage, and at that time no gaps were expected. Arizona was gearing up for an early May start, and the crop was described as good. New Mexico continued to size up, and most shippers were looking at early to mid-May to start. Washington had finished planting, and early crops were reported as doing well. Idaho-Eastern Oregon growers were in various stages of planting; some had finished, and others still putting onions in. New York farmers were finishing up their planting as well.
The early part of May saw New Mexico come in with whites first, then yellows. Mexico continued with its Chihuahua deal, which started earlier than normal with bigger onions. The Winter Garden area of Texas was harvesting, and yields were higher than normal after a good growing season. Volume was expected to be good for the month. Arizona was staying busy with orders and cited excellent quality. Idaho-Eastern Oregon had some shippers continuing to pull out of cold storage, with good quality and volume expected to go another couple of weeks. The Prosser area of Washington had onions for another two weeks, it was reported. One WA shipper told us he’d never seen a market as up and down as the 2017. “It’s been a wild year,” he said.
Second week of May saw demand exceeding supplies for some shippers in the Imperial Valley of California. Quality was reported as outstanding, and demand for jumbo reds was good – but mediums were in highest demand. The market, however, did not reflect the demand although shippers were hopeful it would improve. Some harvesting was delayed slightly due to winds in the area. Washington was winding down its hybrid crop, with one shipper saying availability primarily medium to jumbo yellows and reds and another describing the mid-May loads as having the best variety of the season. Idaho-Eastern Oregon was in the last few weeks of its 2016 crop and seeing lighter demand as buyers switched to Texas and California new crop. Another Texas shipper wrapped up his Rio Grande Valley season and his Mexico deal. Vidalia was seeing good demand but lower pricing, and an early end to fresh harvest was expected. New York was still shipping some of its 2016 storage onions, but most of its loads were sourced out of California and Texas. The market was described as “steady and on the rise for medium and jumbo reds and jumbo whites.”
The third week of May saw a wrap up by one harvest crew in the Imperial Valley, with inventory to last until June 5 and the onset of the Bakersfield harvest. We were told there seemed to be “a lot of onions on the market as prices are in the $6 to $8 range.” Another shipper said sizes out of the Imperial Valley were somewhat smaller than typical and that there should not be an overlap with the San Joaquin Valley crop.
One Washington shipper was finishing its last loads of yellows and had finished its 2016 reds. Hermiston reported moderate demand on storage reds and yellows, with pricing steady but the market overall still down due to an abundance of supply from multiple domestic regions and Mexico. Idaho-Eastern Oregon reported relatively light demand as it finished its 2016 season. Texas Winter Garden was looking at about two more weeks to its season, with above normal yields and steady demand. The Vidalia market had dipped slightly during the week, and demand was described as moderate, with good quality.
Late May’s California market was termed “steady,” although prices had dropped $1 in a week, according to one major shipper. Demand was steady, and sizing was mixed: big reds on the way, heavy to jumbo and medium yellows and tight on colossals and supers. Another shipper called it a “challenging year” in the Imperial Valley, with reds the last to mature and yellows and whites finishing up. The San Joaquin Valley was looking to start whites and then yellows in early June. Idaho-Eastern Oregon was finishing its last loads of 2016 onions. Arizona was nearing the end of its 2017 season, with excellent quality and a steady market reported by all shippers. New Mexico was shipping reds, whites and yellows, heavy to jumbos, and the sweets were also shipping. The season was expected to run into August. Vidalia and Georgia sweets were seeing increased volume going into Memorial Day and the onset of grilling season. Demand had increased on consumer bags, and the market was steady. Chihuahua onions out of Mexico were running well in all sizes, and the deal was expected to go into August.
Prosser, WA, crops were all planted in early May and expecting a harvest two to three weeks later than normal after the brutal winter and colder spring. We were told Washington could be down somewhat in acres this year. In Quincy the direct seeded crop was planted, a little later than normal there as well. Harvest is planned to start in early September. Idaho-Eastern Oregon continued to plant, and there were growers seeing stands, some measuring fix inches, and weather starting to heat up. New Mexico was moving, with some shippers starting in May and some sending out first loads in early June.
Our crop reports the second week of May showed Walla Walla coming along well, with normal yields and a normal mid to late June harvest. Up in the Connell area, one shipper said the new Washington crop was progressing well there, too. Idaho-Eastern Oregon growers were telling us that though the crop was later going in, some stands were quite good; some of the Treasure Valley had seen heavy rain and hail, and the planting that had stretched out over two months because of weather could be a factor later in the season. In Northern Colorado, one grower/shipper had to replant after being hit by heavy rain and hail and another two were spared damage and finished planting on schedule. New York reported that planting had finished in late April, and some of the early transplants were coming up as the crop progressed “on track.”
Third week of May was a big crop update period, with California’s San Joaquin Valley report calling for short day varieties to begin shipping May 29-30. Washington Tri-Cities report was that the crop was in, and there had been a bit more rain than normal. No guess as to harvest dates at that time, with timing dependent on summer weather. In Oregon the new crop was said to be coming along well, although the early part of the growing season was cooler than usual. That same weather pattern was reported in Idaho-Eastern Oregon, where delays had occurred – but heat and sunshine could bring the crop into a normal timing, one shipper said. Colorado’s Western Slope continued to look good, and shippers were still expecting a normal start of right after Labor Day.
The last week of May brought updates from numerous growing regions, with Walla Walla expecting a normal harvest in mid-June after some good, hot days. Idaho-Eastern Oregon was waiting for that same heat to hit the Treasure Valley. Some shippers reported the crop catching up, and others aid their growers were looking at a later start after the tremendous amount of snow during January and February and then a cold spring. One shipper said there could be a gap after New Mexico came in a bit early – stay tuned. Northern Colorado got a couple of inches of rain the latter part of May, and while it didn’t cause any damage to the crop, it was definitely a “nuisance.” That crop remains on schedule for early August; another Northern Colorado shipper will start soon after Labor Day. Southeast Colorado and Kansas onions were looking good to start later in the season, and North Carolina was reported as ready to slip by the end of May.
During the first part of the month, the Imperial Valley in California continued to ship for another week, with the “market in general” down. One major shipper said it was the worst he’d seen in four years, and labor was a major factor this season. Moving up to the Central Valley and the Five Points area, the onions were said to have come on a little early, with good quality. Mexican loads from Chihuahua were still moving well, with good demand. But the familiar comment, “There are just too many onions” in the marketplace continued to be voiced. New Mexico was looking good, with sizes increasing as the season progressed. One shipper told us quality was excellent, and he expected to run through the end of July.
Going into the second week of June things got even more interesting. The California deal had moved to the Central Valley, with most of the final loads going out of the Imperial Valley the first week. Supply was termed as “adequate” to good in the Central Valley, and quality was good. Sizing was picking up as the harvest continued. But market conditions “are not as favorable, and keeping seasonal laborers committed and on the job has been a daily effort,” one shipper said. Another shipper said demand for San Joaquin Valley onions was good as buyers made the transition. Arizona was cleaning up, and New Mexico was going strong with all sizes and colors. One shipper said, “I just wish the market would get a little stronger.” Final loads were going out of Eagle Pass, TX, and one shipper said he was very happy with the season.
Vidalia was pulling out of cold storage, and quality was reported as very good.
Mid-June market reports kicked off with strong demand and a firmer market for the Five Points area of California. Availability was good; quality was good. One shipper said he was tight on mediums. Oregon was expecting to start its harvest of overwinterings, with first loads to go out between June 23 and 26. Onions were said to be good size and quality. New Mexico was reporting “a lot of big onions,” but all sizes were available, and the market was steady. One New Mexico grower/shipper said action was good in mid-June, and he was “optimistic the market will follow.” New York saw demand and market steady in mid-June, with medium reds and yellows running stronger than other sizes.
We hit the third week of June with reports out of North Carolina that demand had been very good, and quality was excellent. One shipper said he was totally sold out of mediums for the rest of the season and expected to ship another three weeks. In Georgia Vidalias were coming out of cold storage, and demand was good ahead of Independence Day. One shipper told us he anticipated going through mid- or late August.
New Mexico markets were anticipated to improve due to heat in California; shippers were tight on whites and medium yellows. Overall quality was good, and the transition to transplants was expected to take place in early July, which “should take some of the pressure off the big onions.”
off the big onions.” Walla Walla started on June 15 with a good crop, and onions were sizing well as harvest moved through the fields. California’s Central Valley reported all varieties, sizes and colors to be moving well, with mediums tight and in demand. Organic yellow harvest was expected to start June 25. Heat had been an issue, especially for flat reds. One shipper in the San Joaquin Valley said a gap between short day and intermediate onions of all sizes and colors was happening, with intermediates coming in around Independence Day. Another Eastern shipper who works the California deal called it a “mixed bag,” with all sizes and colors available but some onions affected by the heat.
Late June reports out of California’s Five Points area indicated a two- to three-day gap had hit, but movement would start again at the end of the month. Demand was good, and the market was “OK.” Mexican onions out of Chihuahua were predicted to continue into July, with good quality and sizing. One shipper said he’d heard the market was “trending a little better right now.” Another shipper said pricing was at $11-$12 for jumbos and $10 for mediums, and a third shipper said he’d be out of the deal by the end of the month. New Mexico was running yellow colossals and supers, and one shipper said the market “seems to be getting better, I think because people are running out of onions.” Another shipper said he would be in New Mexico through mid-August.
In early June Northern Colorado onion fields were reported as mostly good, with one grower/shipper replanting 60 acres after May hail. The crop is on schedule, with some coming in mid-August and others soon after Labor Day. Western Slope onions will come off in late August, according to early June predictions. Utah onions that go into storage immediately should start shipping around the first of October, according to one shipper. Other Utah onions will ship earlier, with harvest starting mid-August. Idaho-Eastern Oregon was seeing good heat, but reports were of “all kinds of fields out there.” Some fields were doing beautifully; some lagging behind.
The Washington crop had benefited from heat in late May, and although it could still be later than normal, shippers were saying it will be an average crop in 2017. Michigan was all planted and progressing well, according to one shipper who said the cool spring had delayed some planting. One Idaho-Eastern Oregon shipper joked on June 6 that the region looked good “for May 15 onions.” He said the crop might end up a week on earlies and a week to 10 days later for harvest crop, with yields possibly off by 10 percent. But stay tuned. Walla Walla was looking to start shipping June 19, and hybrids and overwinterings were on track for late June. Spring seeded will follow in late July. And Peru was on track, as reported in early June, for its first U.S. shipments in late July.
Mid-June’s crop report out of Oregon was transplant and direct seeded onions were coming along well and catching up as the result of warmer weather. The Idaho-Eastern Oregon crop continued to be described as a “mixed bag,” with progress uneven due to earlier weather and field conditions. Some fields were beautiful, some not. Northern Colorado’s crop was also being termed as “variable” A variety trial was producing the best crop one veteran grower/shipper had seen; another field had been hit by hail in May, was replanted and was at a much earlier stage of development. Wisconsin’s crop was progressing well in mid-June, and weather had been good. New York reported good weather and a good crop as well.
June’s third week crop reports included word from New York that the crop had gotten plenty of rain. It was overall in good shape, and shipper expected to start topping transplants the third week in July. SE Colorado and Kansas crops were said to be doing well, although harvest was still two months away. Idaho-Eastern Oregon’s heat was helping the crop along, and one shipper said “things are definitely looking better.” Work on new facilities in the Treasure Valley continued.
Last week of June we were told that one shipper in Northern Colorado would start around the first week of August, and he would have all colors and sizes from the jump. The Western Slope continued to look good as well, with one shipper saying he’d start around Labor Day with intermediates. Another shipper said he could start a bit early, perhaps the last week of August. Idaho-Eastern Oregon was seeing the healing power of the sun, with one shipper telling us it was “amazing how well the onions are going.” He plans to start harvest and have onions the first week of August.
Seedbeds were being planted in Mexico, and the crop will come off between Jan. 15-20.
Early July saw steady demand for all colors and sizes out of California’s San Joaquin Valley, with shipments expected to continue out of the area through August. The Walla Walla deal, which started in mid-June, was moving well, with good sizing and supplies to last into late August. New Mexico’s market was strengthening, with demand especially good for whites.
North Carolina was cleaning up in early July after a good run, and the Chihuahua deal was in its final few weeks with good demand and market conditions.
In mid-July the San Joaquin Valley was seeing a bit of a gap, although a crop had been made. And New York was citing a great market on jumbo and medium reds. Washington was reporting it had started its new crop direct seed yellows mid-month, with good pricing and quality reported. As the month came to a close, the Columbia Basin went from overwinters to transplants and then to direct seed, calling for major volume to hit in August.
Vidalia was cleaning up in late July going into August.
Early July reports from Idaho-Eastern Oregon were that the crop was progressing well, with harvest at that time expected to be a week to 10 days later than normal – mid- to late August, depending on sizing. Northern Colorado was right on schedule, and SE Colorado/Kansas looked to be a couple of weeks early. By mid-July the Columbia River Basin transplants were looking good, and direct seed was bulking up in favorable weather. Earlies were being harvested there.
Oregon and Washington were seeing a nice mix of jumbos and mediums coming in. Idaho-Eastern Oregon had experienced warmer weather, and shippers were eager for the season to get underway. Some of the Western Colorado shippers were looking at an early September start, with good sizing, and New York was reporting a nice crop on track for September harvest. And the last week of July had Washington reds start out of Pasco, with whites about a month out. The Columbia River Basin was harvesting to avoid August heat, with first onions starting the last of the month. Some shippers in Idaho-Eastern Oregon were reporting that onions continued to bulb and fields were being irrigated, with a late start-up and reduced tonnage expected. Northern Colorado looked to start Aug. 1 with all colors and sizes.
August kicked off in fine fashion, with harvest in the San Joaquin Valley looking to run until later in the month. Walla Walla reported good quality as that season entered its final month, and further north in Prosser the season was just getting started with good quality and a steady market for mostly yellows and some sweets. Northern Colorado started its season and was seeing brisk movement.
The second week of August was, in the two-word description used by several shippers, “Crazy busy!” Tri-Cities had been moving new crop reds and yellows in a strong market, and as other areas started shipping, prices softened somewhat. A separate Washington sweet program kicked off and was expected to run into the winter holidays. New Mexico was in its last couple of weeks, and shippers said it had been a good season with excellent quality. And sweets from Peru were coming into the pipeline.
New York reported gaps in the market and jumbo whites in strongest demand as the new crop white was just starting. And Colorado’s Front Range was seeing monsoon conditions, which one grower/shipper said was a “real challenge.” Idaho-Eastern Oregon was seeing some loads go out during mid-August, but the ramp-up would come later. Five Points in California was in its final two weeks and had seen a “tough season.” Bakersfield harvest was almost finished, and reports indicated yields were down although overall quality was good.
By the third week of August, reports were that the San Joaquin Valley was seeing good demand, especially for larger sizes. Prices had increased accordingly there, and some areas were cleaning up while others were just getting started. Supplies were tight. In the Columbia Basin the transition from summer onions to storage was starting, and the sizes were leaning to smaller with good quality and firm pricing reported.
More shippers in Idaho-Eastern Oregon were into the season, with demand “very good.” Most of the Treasure Valley had all sizes and colors available. Sizing varied from field to field, with some onions coming in smaller than normal and some sizing up well. Harvest weather was good as August started to wind down.
And then… Hurricane Harvey. The human toll and property destruction was catastrophic, and “neighbors” from across the nation were stepping up to help with rescue and relief. The industry saw loads not making it into Houston, and trucks were increasingly harder to find.
The last week of August saw New York finishing transplant harvest and moving into direct seeded harvest a bit later than normal due to cooler weather. Onion quality and demand were good, although pressure was coming from Canada. Michigan harvest had started, and quality and sizing were good. The market was “holding,” but it had come off a bit from the previous week. Colorado weather had improved, and the Front Range was seeing a good mix of jumbos and mediums.
Idaho-Eastern Oregon was seeing “crazy good” demand on all sizes in late August. The market was solid, and demand was strong. Quality was reported as very good.
Early on the Idaho-Eastern Oregon crop was needing warm weather. And it got it. By the second week of the month a few onions were being shipped, and temps had hit the 90s during the day, with cooling at night. Utah was looking good, with one grower expecting to start harvest in early September. Western Colorado was seeing an early clipping date, and the crop was universally described as “some of the prettiest onions out there.”
In Mexico, Tampico growers were seeing onions up in the seed beds, but all eyes were on Hurricane Franklin that had hit the Yucatan and was headed to the mainland.
Mid-month reports were that some New York growers were seeing an average crop with more medium yellows than jumbos and more jumbo reds than mediums. Western Colorado continued to report a really nice onion crop, with late August/early September shipping.
In the Treasure Valley some shippers were still two weeks away from start-up on Aug. 16, with reduced yields but good quality reported. The Oxnard region of California was seeing larger onions and an early September harvest in the offing.
The last few days of August came with news out of the Southwest. Tampico growers dodged the hurricane bullet, and much of the direct-seed planting was yet to come in September.
The Rio Grande Valley and Eagle Pass were prepping for planting in September and November, respectively. The regions didn’t receive moisture from Hurricane Harvey. One Western Colorado shipper was getting ready to pack within a few days, while another was letting the onions gain even more size in late August.
Early September kicked off Wisconsin’s harvest and limited shipments. The market was good and pricing higher than normal for the time of year. First loads were going out from Colorado’s Western Slope, and shippers said the crop looked great. “Crazy busy” was again the buzz in Idaho-Eastern Oregon, with all colors and sizing shipping but demand highest for yellow colossals and supers. Demand was exceeding supply, and the market was strong.
Nevada was well into harvest, and shippers were packing reds, yellows, whites, sweets and organics. Sizing was on the smaller size with early varieties. Demand for Washington onions was good, prices were reported to be rising and quality was reported to be excellent.
In mid-September Western Oregon was moving yellows, whites, reds and sweets, and demand was good for all varieties. Tri-Cities in Washington was seeing demand exceed supply on jumbo yellows, and in the Walla Walla area pricing and demand were both strong.
Hurricane Irma further disrupted truck availability, and the Southeast was seeing interruptions and rate impacts.
Idaho-Eastern Oregon continued to enjoy strong demand and a good market, with whites “really strong.” Jumbo reds and yellows were also strong, and supplies tight on larger onions. Northern Colorado was nearing the end of its harvest and would be shipping entirely out of storage soon. Movement had been steady and the market holding up well.
The third week of September saw onions being shipped out of Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Eastern and Western Oregon and Washington. Utah and parts of IEO were experiencing rain delays, but the market was holding. Colorado’s Western Slope was going full tilt, and many IEO shippers were busy meeting demand. Parts of Washington were in the early parts of their deal, with good quality and all colors and sizes available. Western Oregon had also gotten rain, but harvest had picked up again, and growers and shippers were working hard to harvest and ship simultaneously.
The last week of the month brought continued steady demand, and New York was reporting jumbo yellows to be the hot ticket. IEO demand was especially good for large yellows and for reds. And one shipper called it “a strange season” due to limited supplies. He said the market was strong and holding, and quality continued to be very good. Nevada was reporting yields to be off, and Washington was moving to finish harvest before more rain set in. Washington yields were also down some, and sizing was also smaller, but quality was reported as very good.
As September kicked off, the truck shortage and difficulty getting product to stores in Texas, both brought about by Hurricane Harvey, affected the start of some deals. One Western Colorado shipper said he was waiting until the middle of the month. Tampico onions continued to grow, with some planting still going on. By Sept. 12 we were hearing that Tampico had received more than two inches of “welcome rain,” and while Hurricanes Harvey and Irma had made big news, Hurricane Katia was waiting in the wings.
Onions from Colorado’s Western Slope were well in the pipeline by the third week of September, and the later onions from Northern Colorado were going into storage, with a late September grading start.
Some onions in Utah were going into storage on Sept. 20, with the start of shipping planned for two weeks out. And the last week of September had reports that the Rio Grande Valley was ready to start planting within days, with Tampico finishing its planting that week.
Early October brought news that Wisconsin was enjoying great harvest weather and almost finished. Demand was excellent, and the market was steady. Sizing was trending to larger mediums and jumbos. One shipper moving onions from multiple production areas said demand in early October was strongest for large yellows along with reds and whites. He noted weak demand for medium yellows, and the market had begun to reflect that.
A Northern Colorado shipper who got into the deal in late September said his white crop had sized to 80 percent jumbos and 20 percent mediums; yellows were coming in 60/40; reds 50/50; and he said the market was good, as was demand. Utah was encountering more rain delay, and in early October one shipper was at 50 percent in harvest. Quality was good, but the crop was not yielding, and sizing was trending smaller. Another Utah shipper said harvest weather had been good, and his crop had sized mostly to jumbos, colossals and supers. IEO was seeing very high demand, but national movement was off – which was good because IEO was experiencing a labor shortage. One shipper said he did not have enough labor to store at a heavy rate and pack full days. The market was steady; trucks were tight.
About halfway through October we were hearing that Western Oregon was shipping out of storage. Demand was good, and pricing was steady. Transportation continued to be a serious concern. In the Columbia Basin harvest was wrapped up, and the crop came in with good sizing and quality. One shipper told us demand had dipped at the first of that week but had picked back up. The market was steady. Washington’s Tri-Cities reported yields as down slightly but sizing in the “normal” range. Trucks had loosened up slightly during the week.
IEO was working to wrap up harvest, and some shippers commented that the harvest period had been nerve-racking, with nighttime temps getting colder and colder. The consensus of lower yields continued, and the market remained steady.
The week of PMA Fresh Summit brought interesting reports from various areas. From IEO we heard harvest was ending, and some shippers were very encouraged by their individual quality, sizing and yields. Onion quality was described as very good, and shippers were anticipating increased demand after the PMA convention in New Orleans. Nevada was seeing better sizing and yields in its later varieties, and pricing was strong for reds and whites. Yellow pricing was also at a higher level than normally seen during harvest. One shipper noted demand and prices for yellows softening a bit, but it was expected that would level off and “inch upward” as the season progresses.
One Utah and Colorado shipper said his deals were doing very well, and he cited a better situation with trucks in Utah. Another Colorado shipper said his growers had told him this is the largest volume put into storage in more than a decade. Both shippers said quality and sizing out of Colorado’s Western Slope is very good this year.
And our final fall report came in during late October, when one Northern Colorado shipper said he was looking forward to heavy Thanksgiving demand. He said sizing was heavy to mediums, but he had a couple of lots that would produce jumbos.
From IEO we were hearing that demand was best termed “fair” during the latter part of October, with one shipper saying he wasn’t as busy as he’d been two weeks earlier. The market was still referred to as “steady,” although the shipper said some competitors were priced below the market. Another shipper indicated he was bewildered by the softening, and a grower rep said he was frustrated with the dip.
Weighing in from Western Oregon, one shipper said demand was very high for reds in Mexico, and quality was good. Also, the “price spread is big between mediums and jumbos.”
By the second week in October, the Rio Grande Valley was wet, and planting was delayed for some growers – although the delay was not overly concerning. And during the third week we were told that harvest was winding down in King City, CA, while planting was starting a bit early in the Imperial Valley for some grower. South Texas was full-tilt in planting, and the consensus was everyone would be in with all varieties by mid-November. Tampico planting continued for another week or so, and shippers were planning to start loads the second or third week of January.
Late October reports included New Mexico, with all overwinters planted and 90 percent emerged at that time. Growers were shooting for a May 20 start to the season.
Reports from New York in early November were good, with one shipper told us he was very busy with new customers and a good market for jumbos and another shipper citing steady demand and pricing. Northern Colorado was seeing a good market, and Idaho-Eastern Oregon was telling us the market was good, demand high and quality very nice. Washington reported a fairly steady market, although jumbos had slipped slightly for one shipper. Everyone was looking for a Thanksgiving pull, hopefully followed by good movement for Christmas. It was somewhat quieter the second week of November, although one Oregon shipper who told us demand was picking up with tight supplies and strengthening prices. Transportation, however, was getting tighter as Christmas tree season kicked off and the specter of ELB hanging over all. Washington reported good movement and prices, with all colors and sizes shipping. Quality out of Washington and also Idaho was “fantastic,” according to many.
Idaho-Eastern Oregon was citing strong demand, particularly for medium and jumbo yellows. Availability was tightening up for some shippers, although it was expected to open up within a few days. One shipper said everything was “falling into place” with demand, but he said trucks and railcars both were very hard to come by. Utah was moving every size and color, and Western Colorado was shipping out of storage.
By the middle of November, everyone was talking about transportation. Colorado and Utah, at least for a while, were good sources for trucks, and market conditions for those two locales were good, with high demand and strengthening prices. Nevada reported a strong market, but there was a lack of capacity and untimely demand associated with transportation. Idaho-Eastern Oregon reports indicated demand was good on all sizes, with medium yellows and whites up and a steady market.
The Columbia Basin had good demand in mid-November, with demand even across the board and quality very good. Export was up as well. Washington shippers said pricing was steady, Thanksgiving demand very good and transportation very tight.
In the days after Thanksgiving we were hearing that demand was slower than before the holiday but pricing steady for some Oregon/Washington shippers. Trucks were tight and getting tighter, due both to the Christmas tree season and the e-logger mandate. Idaho-Eastern Oregon’s inventories remained tight, and the market was steady. Transportation was “brutal,” with one shipper telling us demand was good “if you can find a truck.”
Western Colorado and Utah continued to experience good movement, although trucks had tightened up there too.
Early November crop reports from New Mexico were of overwinters emerging and looking great. Washington’s overwinters were also coming up and looking good, we were told. During the second week of the month we heard from a couple of onion guys in the Rio Grande Valley. Both were wrapping up their planting, and both said good weather was reason for optimism. Winter Garden planting also started that second week of November.
In the middle of November we talked to Washington growers and shippers, and we were told overwinter Walla Wallas were emerged and looking good, and planting was 50 percent finished, with spring transplants to go in during March. Tri-Cities area overwinters were also in and up, and growers were in the snow dance mode. The last week of the month brought more reports out of Walla Walla, with growing conditions for that overwinter crop called “very good” before the onions went into dormancy.
Tampico overall is earlier than normal, according to a late November report. The crop is also very spread out timewise, with a season that could run from mid-January to early April.
December’s market report kicked off with reports out of New York that demand had slowed, and prices remained steady – what many said was typical after Thanksgiving. To no one’s surprise, trucks were tight. Michigan weighed in with a report of lighter demand than the week previous, but indications were it was picking up. Supplies were good on mediums, tight on pre-packs. And transportation was a “nightmare.” Notice a worsening trend?
Sources in Idaho-Eastern Oregon said demand was steady, trucks were tough and the market was solid. Supplies were fair for reds, good for jumbo/medium yellows, tight for colossals and supers and tight for whites. Quality was said to be excellent. Transportation? Tight, but there was some optimism it would loosen up after the first of the year.
Washington was seeing increased demand as December got going, and one shipper said the market was better than a year ago at the same time. Supplies were down overall, although numbers for reds and whites were said to be where they needed to be.
During the second week of the month we talked to a Northern Colorado shipper who said Thanksgiving had been very busy, but December had slowed somewhat. He was anticipating a Christmas push, and he said his season will run well into March. Western Colorado continued to be a good deal, with everything moving well and pricing good. One shed expected to clean up within a couple of weeks; others will go into January.
Utah was seeing a slowdown, with the season winding down in January. Idaho-Eastern Oregon had steady demand and loads with good quality going out, but transportation was termed as “terrible with both railroad and trucks” by one shipper. Oregon demand was good, and both jumbo and medium yellows were in high demand mid-December. Transportation was tight, coming “at a premium price.”
And just a few days before Christmas one of our New York friends told us the company had been “extremely busy this week.” Demand was hot, he said, even though delivery had been “tough due to transportation issues for trucks and rail.” Canadians were having issues with e-logs, too. Northern Colorado continued to ship “outstanding quality,” but the refrain about transportation was much the same from that area, with one shipper said new regulations “are putting a real crimp in things.” Western Colorado and Utah were looking to go into mid- and late January, respectively, for one shipper.
One Idaho-Eastern Oregon shipper was seeing a slight slowing in demand after a month of holiday pull. Quality was described as excellent on all sizes and colors board on all sizes and colors is excellent. Another IEO shipper said demand had been good for him, particularly on colossals. Whites were tight; reds were tightening. Pricing was expected to be good going into January.
One Nevada shipper said the December market was a bit quieter than November’s, and the operation was ahead of schedule for all colors. But the finish date remains late March for that deal.
Mid-December’s crop reports from New Mexico were that the overwinter crop was in the ground and will hit the market in May June. The Rio Grande Valley had an unusual bit of weather – snow, in fact – but the onions weren’t fazed by it. Shippers told us the crop looks very good, and temps never made it to freezing.
Mexico continued to come closer to its January start for early sweets and some whites, although a couple of cold spells in December could mean later in January for the first loads. Whites and reds will start in February for one shipper.
The Rio Grande Valley onions are on track for a spring start, April for conventionals and May for the 1015 sweets for one shipper.
Another RGV shipper said he will start shipping in late March.
And New Mexico is shaping up as another “fantastic” crop for 2018. Overwinters are in, and spring seeded will go in after the New Year. One shipper said the first frost came two days after the temp had hit 82. The cold snap plunged the area to 13 F, he said. But he said the onions weren’t hurt at all.
That’s your year in review in about 8,100 words. We’ll be back with our up-to-date reports next week, and as always, let us know about YOUR area and your operation.