Editor’s note: From their unique vantage point, our broker contributors have a good weekly platform in OnionBusiness.com. For our Year in Review, Jason Vee with Vee’s Marketing in Superior, WI, takes a look back and shares with the industry what he and other brokers dealt with in 2018.
Jason wrote: “It’s the beginning of 2019. Christmas and New Years are behind us. Time to sober up. Or, it’s at least time to reflect on the previous year for a bit and prepare for the year ahead. We still have the struggles of surviving a short week, but then it’s back to normal on Monday again. Here are some abbreviated notes of 2018’s highs and lows that I have written in my monthly reviews. Let me know what I missed at email@example.com.”
Month-by-month, he summarized how the market shifted. January started with fair demand and markets higher than average.
January: Demand is fair, and markets are on the high side of average. Looking back, those prices are 30-35 percent higher than they are now in some cases. Most of my concentration is on trucking. People expect trucking to get easier after the holidays, and we get the opposite.
Truck shortage is the new normal.
February: Good quality, high supply, and stagnant demand turn into market decline. Mexican whites out of Tampico start crossing into the U.S. That overlaps districts and puts more downward pressure on white onions.
March: Many or most Northwest onion contracts wrap up. Midwest and Southwest retailers switch from the Northwest to the South Texas District. Market decline levels off.
April: White onions in Washington disappear for the season. There is a lot of complaining about overlapping onion districts. By this time there are still storage reds and yellows in the Northwest, yellows across Canada and the Midwest, Vidalia sweets, Mexican crossings into Texas, South Texas onions and Imperial Valley onions.
May: Things get a little squirrely, relying almost entirely on South Texas for supply. I get a refresher on rain markets and dealing with gaps in supply. Overall, quality is good, and markets are stable.
June: New Mexico jumps in. Profile is large. Red and white onions gain strength. DOT week gets on everyone’s nerves and depletes the trucking supply even further for a short time. Vidalia onions have some trouble making arrival due to rain skin and staining.
July: Vidalia quality fixes itself as they transition to storage. The increase in price on Vidalia onions pushes some customer to buy New Mexico sweets. I start shipping winter-over reds and yellows out of Washington. The yellows are good. The reds not so much.
August: I wrap up my New Mexico onion program having flagged almost nothing for quality the entire season. I’m shipping reds, whites, yellows and sweets out of Washington. We are all paying close attention to harvest conditions, particularly high temps in the Northwest. Market declines sharply on reds.
September: We have established that profile on onions is going to be large for the entire season in the Northwest. That also translates to higher yields. The Northeast and Eastern Canada have the exact opposite happening, small profile and lower yields. Red onions are still weak. Oh, and my office gets struck by lightning.
October: More decline on red onions. Trucking continues to pose problems. We are looking forward to some volatility on markets looking ahead to Thanksgiving, especially on medium and prepack yellows. Angie and I move our office to Superior, WI.
November: Markets are low but stable. Sales are average. Most of our difficulty is with trucking. Short-notice recoveries on fallout trucks get the most expensive I have ever seen.
December: I get the greatest number of cold calls for export I can ever remember. The only onion that has shown any movement has been 50# medium reds. And they have only increased slightly. That size and color combo seems to have more autonomy than any other onion. 50# medium reds make their own market.
Featured Image: Jason Vee with his family, published in a late 2017 feature story about Vee’s Marketing: https://onionbusiness.com/vees-marketing-ups-its-contracts-keeps-pace-in-the-supply-chain/