With a nip of fall in the air, onion buyers have more than a few options, including Keystone Fruit Marketing’s Mayan Sweets grown in Peru.
According to onion man Dan Borer in the Keystone Walla Walla, WA, office, 25 years of growing and marketing traditional sweet onions has given the company a bit of insight into the industry.
“Every season is different, and let’s face it, growing sweet onions is harder than people think,” Dan said.
So what makes every season different?
“Of course, year to year, each crop and each season is dependent on things a farmer can’t control,” Dan explained. “The weather is the biggest challenge. And because Keystone focuses on marketing a traditional fresh short-day sweet onion, we source product from a variety of areas.”
Dan continued, “With this in mind, in the spring we start our sweets with Vidalia, then move to California and then up to Walla Walla. From there we swing south down to Peru and work our way north to Chile and Mexico.”
The different regions are part of the plan, he said.
“If we are going to meet our customers’ expectations for a traditional sweet onion with a very mild flavor profile, it just has to be done this way. We don’t stockpile sweet onions. We pack to order, and our system is one we have refined over many years. It works very well for our customers that have a certain expectation of receiving a fresh sweet onion.”
Dan went on to say with Mayan Sweets, the program starts with baseline grading and packing in Peru, and then the onions are brought up to a U.S. facility to be repacked with further grading here.
“Basically, our Mayan Sweets are looked at twice,” he said. “They aren’t just loaded in bulk on a ship and hauled up here.”
In keeping with its program strategy, Keystone has started marketing its Peruvians. “Our Mayan Sweets are off to a bit of a slow start,” Dan said. “In southern Peru, their winter, which is our summer, was more mild and cooler than usual, and so the start has been a little slow. But as we get further north, the weather may indeed change.”
He continued, “Keep in mind it’s still very early, and what we are expecting for the season out of Peru is a good promotable volume with very nice quality. Our sweet onion program philosophy is ‘Fresh is best,’ and we have worked hard to build a program that can meet our customers sweet onion needs for nearly 12 months out of the year.”
Dan concluded, “So far 2018-19 is looking like we are going to achieve just that.”