Featured image: Vidalia onion crop, courtesy of Danny Ray with Ray Farms, Inc. in Glennville, GA
Matt Murphy with L&M Cos. in Raleigh, NC, reported on March 31, saying, “Demand is good this week but not like it was last week. I think with the holiday coming up this weekend, things have slowed up a bit. I wouldn’t say it’s bad, just a little off. Sales of reds are brisker than yellows, and whites aren’t moving too well. That makes sense, though, because we don’t have a lot of whites left, and there are whites coming across from Mexico.” On the market, Matt said it’s pretty good. “It’s not as firm as it was,” he said. “With lowered demand, it’s softened some, but it’s not sloppy. I think we’re in a good position for April with these guys to have a really strong finish. That will depend on how Mexico finishes and Texas all plays out, but it’s looking pretty good, particularly since the quality out of Warden is holding so well.” Matt said the Warden operation will be shipping into May. “We plan to start up our Calipatria deal April 19, and we’ll be shipping Washington into May, so we will have overlap,” he said. “We won’t have any gaps.”
Dan Phillips with Central Produce Dist. in Payette, ID, reported on March 31, “Demand seemed to have picked up a little this week. It was a bit flat last week. Maybe it’s Easter – I’m not sure, but we’ve had pretty good business.” He continued, “The market’s been OK. It’s not super great, but it’s not terrible. There have been a few sheds that are finishing up, but we’re on course for an April 15 finish.” On transportation, Dan said it’s still rough. “We’re able to load flatbeds,” he said. “And we’re just trying to keep drivers out of Wyoming. That’s about all you can do.” Dan added that Central’s growers’ onions are all in the ground. “We have everything planted, and this summer should be pretty exciting,” he said. “Normally, we just do the routine maintenance, but this summer, we are putting in a new consumer line and doing some cool things around the shed.”
John Vlahandreas with Wada Farms in Salam, OR, reported from the Imperial Valley, CA, this week. “Demand is a hair off this week,” he said. “It’s pretty typical that going into the Easter holiday, it starts to wind down on orders. Things should start picking back up toward the middle of next week. We are seeing more interest in the larger sizes.” John continued, “On the market, we started making a little push and because of the slowdown on demand, that stopped, but I don’t see any reason why we won’t start moving the market once the orders start back up and the pipeline starts emptying out, particularly, since we are still seeing great quality coming out of both Washington and Idaho-Oregon.”
Rick Greener with Greener Produce in Ketchum told us on March 31 that his report would be lackluster this week. “I wish I had something exciting to report, but there isn’t anything really gangbuster going on out there,” he said. “One thing new is that the colossal business is picking up. That is a sign that foodservice is truly opening up. We’re moving onions out of Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Texas and Mexico right now, and the onions coming out of the Northwest continue to make awesome deliveries. Pre-packs and mediums are doing well, and they are sold out by the end of the week. But the market isn’t anything spectacular. It’s just steady.” On freight, Rick added, “It’s the same ol’ message. Plan ahead. Freight’s is a killer. Rates continue to be ridiculous!”
Tampico, Mexico/S. Texas:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, told us on March 31, “Business is very active.” He said while Tampico is winding down, his Rio Grande Valley deal is ramping up. “Mexico is starting to wind down. It peaked last week, and we have one shed down there that’s finished and another that has another 10 days.” He said he will continue to have whites out of Mexico, and he noted, “We’re clipping reds today in the Rio Grande Valley and will start yellows next week.” He said volume is tightening up, and he added, “I think this market could firm up.”
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission, TX, said on March 31 he’s “very busy,” adding, “Texas volume is growing, and Mexico is falling off some.” He said weather has been great, and yields are improving “as we knew they would, and we could be about two weeks from being back to normalcy.” But, he went on to say, “If we double our volume, I don’t know if we can find the trucks to haul it. The transportation thing is really bad – there’s so much commerce and so many people buying durable goods right now. There’s very heavy truck traffic, with them loading out of Laredo. Washers, dryers, microwave ovens. And we’re having a hard time getting them to come to the Rio Grande Valley.”
Danny Ray with Ray Farms LLC in Glennville told us on March 31 his family will start harvest on Monday, April 5. “We are going to start harvesting on Monday, and we should start packing Georgia Sweets by the end of the week, he said. “Customers are calling, and we are getting everyone lined out. Depending on the region, some customers will go ahead and start out with Georgia Sweets ahead of the official Vidalias start date and others will wait until April 19 when we start packing the Vidalias.” Danny said he’ll have reds in May. “We normally have reds about May 10, and we think that’s about the time we’ll start packing our reds this year,” he said. “Overall, it looks like we should have a normal onion year. We should have good-sized onions and normal yields.” Many thanks to Danny for supplying photos of his 2021 crop. He also sent along a darling photo of his onion-eating grandson, Brantley. Danny said Brantley tells him, “These aren’t spicy. So sweet!” We love this kid! You have to make note that Brantley is washing it down with a Sam’s cola!
Eagle Pass, TX:
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission said on March 31 the Wintergarden crop is looking “really good” and will start shipping May 5-10, with a clean-up date of June 1-10. He said that region came through the February weather without damage.
New Mexico and North Carolina:
Matt Murphy with L&M in Raleigh told us on March 31 that the L&M deals in Deming, NM, and in North Carolina are coming along. “Everything looks good for Billy the Kid’s operation in Deming,” Matt said. “They have had a good growing season, and we expect to get going there June 1. We also work with three growers in North Carolina that raise about 150 acres of reds and yellows, and we’ll start shipping those onions on May 15. It’s nice we can offer some East Coast onions at this time of year, so we are excited about this crop too.”
Chihuahua, Mexico/New Mexico:
James Johnson with Carzalia Valley Produce in Columbus, NM, said on March 31 his Mexico and New Mexico crops are right on schedule. “Everything is good,” James said. “There’s been a little loss in the area from high winds, but that’s all spring seeded for July and August.” He added, “Our Chihuahua crop is on target for a late April start, and the Columbus crop will start in late May. It looks like we will be shipping consistent supplies, all sizes and colors, from April 26 through Sept. 10.”
Colorado Western Slope and Utah:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said on March 31 planting is finished in Colorado, and, “Utah is getting close.” The Western Slope traditionally starts shipping around Labor Day, and the Corinne, UT, deal starts in October.
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission, TX, said his two Western Slope growers will start planting onions this weekend, with a traditional start date of around Labor Day planned for the crop.
California Imperial Valley:
Robert Bell with Western Onion in Camarillo told us on March 31 some shippers’ early onions out of the Imperial Valley “will probably get going around April 21,” and he added “We won’t start until May.”
John Vlahandreas with Wada Farms in Salam, OR, reported from the Imperial Valley, CA, on March 31 and told us that Troy Caston is 95 percent complete with his shed upgrades. “We are really excited to get going on April 26,” he said. “We will be operating both night and day with our new lines, doing different pack types. The crop is in good shape too. We expect a good startup to our season.” He continued, “While we’re not quite sure how Texas will all play out, with the exception of some of the larger shippers, a lot of the Northwest guys will be finished up so we should have a pretty good season.” Many thanks to John sending photos of the Imperial Valley crop this week.