A six-month recap for 2018 shows us that 2018 has seen mostly good demand, but trucks/transportation has sticky and the market squishy at times. The common lament we’ve heard in recent months is “too much product out there.”
We provided a first-quarter recap back in early April, and at that time the consensus was that prices could be better. People were talking about transportation and labor then as well, of course.
We’re going to provide a comprehensive look at the first half of the year, starting with January and working through the end of June. Get the popcorn and settle in…
Early January 2018 market saw good demand for Northwest onions. Oregon reported tighter supplies due to overall demand; prices were steady and not on the rise. Idaho-Eastern Oregon had a lot of orders, but transportation issues were slowing movement in some cases. East Coast shippers reported a leveling off of the market, and the Great Lakes region said demand was fair, with transportation a struggle.
The crop reports in early January included news out of Georgia that a half-foot of snow had fallen but that the crops were fine.
Mid-January market reports told of tight transportation and steady demand that was lower than the holiday pull. Wisconsin was one exception, with a shipper noting a very busy period due to covering loads that couldn’t be delivered from the West. Colorado was in good shape for the season, with one shipper 75 percent through his storage crop. Idaho-Eastern Oregon was experiencing slower demand and continued transportation shortages. Nevada reported both good movement and good pricing; Washington said the market had slowed. Mexico was gearing up.
Mid-January crops were seeing good weather in S. California; parts of the San Joaquin Valley were waiting for the ground to dry out. New Mexico was progressing very well, and the Texas Rio Grande Valley was expected to “wake up” within the month.
Late January markets saw normal demand for Washington, and of course transportation was the major factor in movement. Idaho-Eastern Oregon reported consistent demand and a steady market. E-Logs, truck shortages and freight rates were the topic of conversation, although some shippers noted an easing in transportation. The cost of trucks was still high, but availability was better, and that made movement better as well. Mexico continued to pick up, and Peru came in.
Crop news for the latter part of January was that Texas was awaiting warm weather; Georgia could be slightly delayed.
Early February markets reports indicated a slight dip in demand for Oregon. Washington/Oregon reported steady sales; Idaho-Eastern Oregon noted a slowing after a big Super Bowl weekend. Trucks were at better rates in IEO. Mexico had seen some cooler weather, which slowed the northern Tampico start a bit; one shipper said the market was slow for produce as a whole. The Great Lakes also reported slower demand and a tightening up on some colors.
Crop news the first part of February was that the South Texas crop was progressing more slowly than normal as cooler weather prevailed, but the crop was described as looking very good. Mild weather in the Treasure Valley of Idaho-Eastern Oregon allowed some growers to prepare for planting; Oregon was reporting a very nice overwintered crop after a mild winter. Planting in the Imperial Valley was going on, and New Mexico continued to weigh in with very positive crop reports.
Mid-February market news out of Idaho-Eastern Oregon was that demand was moderate and market was steady. Transportation was better, and inventory was manageable and promotable. Mexico had yet to come in with big volume due to cooler weather, but movement was expected to pick up. Wisconsin was seeing steady movement and pricing on medium yellows; New York reported the best movement in reds and whites, with steady demand and what was termed as a “flat” market. Truck rates were a bit lower.
Our mid-February crop updates indicated Arizona was on schedule for late April, and Idaho-Eastern Oregon reported some early planting. The Rio Grande Valley was still seeing some cool weather, but the forecast was for warming temps; first loads were expected to ship in early April.
Late February market reports were of increasing demand for Washington and anticipation for the Easter pull. Pricing was termed “disappointing.” Idaho-Eastern Oregon cited moderate demand that was picking up, and freight quotes were down. Demand was picking up for Mexico, and buyers were switching to new crop. Transportation was said to be better.
In the crop news of late February, the Rio Grande Valley crop was doing well although still a bit later than normal. Imperial Valley was progressing very well; Bakersfield had good stands that were expected to be ready for harvest in June. Washington was expecting to get in the fields around March 5; Idaho-Eastern Oregon was looking at March to start planting in earnest. Georgia said the crop was down on stands due to the freeze, but onions were looking good and warm temps were moving things along.
The Market Updates report of early March was that business was steady in Oregon, but prices had not increased. Demand for Idaho-Eastern Oregon was off initially but then picked up, with Mexico affecting some markets. Trucks were easier to book; railcars not readily available. Nevada sources called the year to date a “roller coaster,” with a strong market leading into 2018 and a slowing in demand since then. Mexico was moving all sizes, colors and packs, and it was expected Mexico would overlap with the Texas 1015s. Some Wisconsin sheds were cleaning up while others planned to go into May; an increase in pricing was anticipated. New York cited good demand.
Crop news out of the Imperial Valley was for an early harvest after the mild winter. The San Joaquin Valley’s overwintered and intermediate onions were planted for June and July harvest, and long days were going in for an August harvest. New Mexico saw 100 percent emergence on spring seeded, and overwintered onions were waking up for an on-time crop to come off the third or fourth week of May. Texas Rio Grande valley was still a few weeks away from its real start, and the consensus was the crop was the healthiest in many years. Winter Garden was expected to be a week or two later than last year. Walla Walla reported in that the season was setting up to be good, with transplants going in and harvest expected early to mid-June. Idaho-Eastern Oregon guys got into the fields.
Mid-March market news out of Washington was that most shippers were out of whites and were shipping red hybrids and yellows. Some shippers were cleaning up while others expected to go into April and possibly May. Idaho-Eastern Oregon reported consistent shipments and an uptick in demand. Quality remained very good, and both trucks and railcars were in better supply. Texas had some early 1015s shipping in low volume; demand was called “incredibly strong” for Mexican yellows in all sizes. Peru was winding down.
Mid-March crop news out of the Imperial Valley was that the crop was looking “absolutely fantastic.” Idaho-Eastern Oregon was planting; Northern Colorado growers were also planting. Texas Rio Grande Valley was expecting to ship additional onions in late March; Vidalia remained “slightly behind.”
Late March market news, demand was said to be good for the Northwest and Mexico, with a switch to California planned for mid-April. Movement was also said to be good for Idaho-Eastern Oregon, with that area slowing. One Mexico deal was “rolling wide open” on the back side, and a few more Rio Grande Valley 1015s were in the pipeline as the weather warmed up. New York said demand was good and movement “decent.” Wisconsin was looking to run until early May; and Nevada wrapped up the third week of March.
Crop news for late March was that Texas Winter Garden, as the Rio Grande Valley, had a beautiful crop ahead; New Mexico continued to enjoy great weather; Colorado’s Western Slope was starting to plant, as was Utah; Idaho-Eastern Oregon was hitting the good weather windows for planting; and Vidalia was awaiting word on the start date. California onions continued to do well, with the Imperial Valley still a bit early and the San Joaquin Valley planted and healthy. Much of the Treasure Valley was in.
Market news in early April brought news of more NW shippers cleaning up 2017 storage and getting into the fields with 2018 planting. Idaho-Eastern Oregon saw some sheds finishing their shipping season and others with product to go through the month. Mexico was winding down for a few shippers as well, with others looking toward the end of the month before they got out.
Mid-April crop news indicated some shippers were transitioning to California, with most planning on a mid-month start. Idaho-Eastern Oregon planting was on schedule – some growers had their entire crop in; some were just about finished. New Mexico was growing well, and shippers were telling us late May and early June would see onions come out of that region. Northern Colorado onions were in and emerging, with an August harvest planned. Western Colorado growers were well into planting and were saying they expected a late August or early September start to the season. And in Vidalia there was what one shipper called “pleasant surprise” at how the crop was turning out after a rather iffy winter. The official start date was set for April 20, and most shippers were champing at the bit with nice onions and eager receivers.
In mid-April California’s Imperial Valley was shipping its first onions. Weather was termed “warm” at that time. One of our Washington shipper friends was selling off the floor in the last days of his 2017 crop, and reports out of Oregon were of good demand and steady movement. Idaho-Eastern Oregon had some guys still shipping all sizes with good quality and plans for an early May clean-up. A South Texas shipper as moving onions out of Mexico and said he’d been in that deal for another couple of weeks, with demand very good and jumbos and colossals moving best. The Rio Grande Valley was midseason, and the open market had seen an uptick – one shipper said quality was outstanding, and because the crop was not a huge one and it came on a bit later, big onions were moving especially well. The guys in the RGV were looking at a mid-to-third-week May finish. Vidalia was in the third-point stance, ready to go. New York was citing good demand, with a rising market on jumbos.
Crop news in mid-April was focusing on additional Imperial Valley onions ready to go, and the Central Valley was also said to be doing well and on track for an early June start. Washington’s overwinters were sizing, and we were told to look for them to start the third week of June. Walla Walla grower/shippers told us that crop was doing very well and right on the money for a mid-June start. Oregon’s overwinters were also looking very good after a mild winter, and many growers were finishing their direct seeding at that time as well. In Idaho-Eastern Oregon some operations were still shipping 2017 onions while planting this year’s crop. The Texas Winter Garden crop was described as beautiful, and shippers were expecting to get rolling the first week of May and going for a month. New York had started its planting.
Late April market news out of California’s Imperial Valley indicated volume was coming on heavy, and all sizes and colors were shipping. In Washington one shipper was going strong out of Prosser in late April and expected to continue for another few weeks. Idaho-Eastern Oregon guys who were still shipping reported a slowing in demand as new crop areas came on, but quality out of IEO remained very good. The Texas Rio Grande Valley was more than halfway finished. Mexico was either cleaned up or cleaning up, and Winter Garden was gearing up as the RGV slowed down. Vidalia was running with good quality and strong demand. We got our broker’s perspective in late April that indicated lots of onions from lots of areas – but freight costs were keeping demand somewhat lower.
Crop news was not all sweetness and light in late April. One Northern Colorado grower/shipper was hit by high winds that ripped across the state, but replanting was already in the works. New Mexico was still coming on well, with late May and early June the start range for shippers there. In Arizona one shipper said he’d start his first loads on April 30, and he reported a nice crop with large sizes. IEO’s onions were in the ground, and one shipper told us the region completed planting in a timely manner and in great conditions.
In market news during early May we heard from a California processor that SoCali seeing increased volume ship, and the market was described as “rough,” with oversupply in the pipeline continuing.
Another IEO shipper had cleaned up and was transitioning to California and Texas, and he said demand was good, and he noted that as the Northwest continued to clean up, prices were expected to climb. Oregon was shipping fresh market yellows and reds through mid-May, with excellent quality. And IEO still had onions going into May, with the region’s 2017-18 shipping season coming to a close. The Rio Grande Valley deal in South Texas was also winding down, with the later maturing onions showing good size and quality. Winter Garden was gearing up to start just after the middle part of May, and shippers were looking at a June 10 finish date for crop that was showing good quality, good yields and good size. Vidalia onions were described as beautiful. Lack of transportation and the electronic logging device continued to be a burr under most regions’ saddles.
Early May’s crop reports described good sizing and quality in the southern reaches of California’s Central Valley, and early June continued to be the target start date. Oregon growers in the Columbia Basin had their onions in, and warm temps were welcomed. Colorado Western Slope onions, along with most Utah onions, were all in and starting to emerge the first week of May. The Northern Colorado crop was coming along well, with emergence as well. One grower north of Greeley was almost finished planting his sets, and he said harvest will start in July. New Mexico onions near Hatch were looking good, both the spring and summer bulbs. Wisconsin was expecting to finish shipping 2017 onions and also finish seeded and transplants for the 2018 crop.
Market news in mid-May for Vidalia and other areas was that the quality was good, harvest was going smoothly and all sizes were shipping. The market was off a bit, although it had leveled off. New crop shippers continued to watch as areas around the country cleaned up, expecting the market to take an upward turn. The Texas Rio Grande Valley was just a couple of weeks away from wrapping up its 2018 shipping season. Arizona was seeing good quality onions but poor markets, and the last of the 2017-18 IEO onions were going out. Some Washington shippers were also wrapping up their 2017-18 shipping season, although one shipper said he was moving Washington onions with good quality and expected to continue shipping through the middle of June. California’s Imperial Valley was seeing good demand but a weak market – again the reason was cited as “so many onions out there.” One shipper said he’d been moving onions out of the Imperial Valley for 24 years and had never seen movement as slow as it was this year. Sizing and quality were excellent, he said, but pricing was matching demand.
Crop news in mid-May was that Washington onions were progressing well, with “unusually warm” weather and heat units ahead of last year. Walla Walla was shaping up to have a normal but perhaps early harvest with good heat units bringing the onions on. IEO’s new crop was also said to be doing well, with temps getting into the 80s and stands at about eight inches. New Mexico was eager to get going, with one company anticipating a Memorial Day start. Eastern Colorado and Kansas were looking good with “near perfect weather,” and Western Slope onion growers were describing “one of the prettiest crops ever.”
Market news in late May included a report out of New York by one shipper that his 2017 crop had wrapped up, although “there are still some New York onions out there.” The same shipper told us that older onions were still moving out of New York, Canada and parts of the Northwest, and he said that was causing the slugging demand and “not good” market. What’s more, he added, “Transportation is horrible.” Vidalia was in full swing by the third week of May, and fresh harvest was expected to wrap up in a week or maybe two. Winter Garden, Texas, onions were moving well but “not at very good prices.” One shipper told us the market “hasn’t gone anywhere,” and he said everyone had a good crop. Quality and sizing out of Winter Garden was great, he added. Mexico was seeing a gap, and the market was reported as “still down.” Arizona was reported an uptick in demand on smaller sizes, pre-packs and mediums in what one shipper called an “unstable” market. One Washington shipper finished his 2017-18 season the last week of May, and he called the season “solid.” The Imperial Valley in California was “plagued with heat,” but most reports were that the onions were doing well.
Crop news in late May included a report from Oregon that days were warm and nights were cool. “Perfect.” Onions were coming up nicely. The Northwest in general had been seeing very good growing conditions and good sizing of the onions. Northern Colorado continued to see good weather, and most onions were in, including some fields that had to be replanted. New York had a long planting season, one grower/shipper said. He told of rain, followed by sun, followed by rain, which was followed by sun.
Market news in early June included word that Five Points had started shipping with excellent quality. One shipper said demand was good and would be better if there were more trucks. He said the market was a “battle.” Another California shipper told us it was a great time to be a lettuce guy. He said demand hadn’t let up, but there was an oversaturation of supply with 10 shipping districts active. New Mexico was moving onions, although one shipper said demand was light – again due to the multiple areas that had onions in the pipeline. One of our New York shippers said demand had increased, and that operation was pulling onions out of California and Texas. The shipper also said it was tough getting trucks to come that direction.
Crop news in early June was that more of the Washington areas were finished planting, and the onions were doing well. IEO’s crop was looking good, and one shipper told us there would be a few more reds this year. Weather was good, and most shippers are expecting normal sizing and normal timing. Western Colorado’s onions had been getting plenty of heat units and “really started to take off.” No crop pressures, and everything was on track for an early September harvest for intermediates and late September harvest for storage. New York’s 2018 crop was all in and looking good, with an early September harvest start planned.
Market news in mid-June brought us a three-word exclamation out of the Imperial Valley of California: “Freight is outrageous.” One shipper told us freight was higher than the price of yellows and whites headed east. Too many onions, the shipper said. In the San Joaquin Valley the crop looked good both in quality and size. Walla Walla was starting to pack, with lots of excitement in that region. New Mexico was about midway through the fall seeded harvest and would start transplants around the first of June, the plan being to avoid any gaps. Price was rough on yellows but strong on reds, and movement and demand were both good. Texas Winter Garden had a week to 10 days remaining, and while movement and quality were good, labor and transportation were both issues. Vidalia was winding down fresh pack loads and transitioning to storage onions. Quality was good, we were told.
Crop news in mid-June included a good report on Nevada – “so far, so good.” Harvest will start in mid-to-late August, with shipping the first week of September. IEO onions were being irrigated, and weather was said to be ideal. Colorado’s Western Slope and Utah onions were both described as “gorgeous.” Peru’s crop was reported to be “progressing normally” and the first loads will arrive in the U.S. in early to mid-August.
Market news the third week of June had a report that white onions coming out of the Brawley area were excellent, and there were reds and yellows still waiting to harvest. But market conditions could cause the onions to stay in the field. One shipper expected to finish harvest around June 23. Central Valley onions were also coming in, with a “huge” organic red crop. Reds were active in most areas. In New York the trucking situation was called “terrible unless you can get one, and then it is fantastic.” Demand was described as “very good” by one New Mexico shipper, and he said his company was handling its transportation issues. He said the market for reds continued to climb, and he also said there was a gap in whites. Another New Mexico shipper said demand was good and pricing going up for both reds and whites.
The third week of June crop update out of Oregon described perfect weather and a crop that’s “right on schedule.” The Idaho-Eastern Oregon crop was called “beautiful” and “much better than as we had last year.” Northern Colorado reported beautiful onions as well, and Eastern Colorado and Kansas were getting rain, but overall the crop was looking good. New York was seeing some dry conditions, but the onions looked good.
We’ll wrap up with market news for late June, and this report out of Vidalia: “We are pulling out of storage now, and the quality thus far is excellent.” The shipper said he was tight on colossols but has a good supply of jumbos and mediums. One New Mexico shipper had finished his overwinterings and moved to transplants and spring seeded. Quality was described as excellent, and demand was good for reds and whites. The market was “very active for everything but jumbo yellows.” Finding trucks hadn’t gotten any easier and was “still a struggle.” But another shipper told us it was “no problem filling orders.” Washington had started its overwinters, and one shipper told us it was “one of the better looking new crops… but there is still a lot of old inventory out there.” Reds were scarce “everywhere,” our broker’s perspective said.
And our late June crop update includes the “everything looks good” report on Washington, punctuated by, “I haven’t heard of a crop failure anywhere” by one shipper. IEO continues to grow, and onions had started to bulb.