Sweet and Hybrid Update:
Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing reported from his Walla Walla, WA, office this week with comments on the spring transition period. “Sourcing for sweets and hybrids is virtually the same right now,” Dan said. “They are coming from a variety of areas. On sweets, we are getting some from Mexico, and we still have Peru in the mix, getting a shipment of those just 10 days ago.” He continued, “Now Texas 1015s have started, and in the last two days Georgia sweet onions have started to ship. On the hybrid side, you have good volumes still available in the Northwest, and there are still a few Midwest and East Coast onions out there. And California is starting up.” Dan noted, “This year has been different from normal, too. We had Mexico hesitant to bring through a lot of volume for a variety of reasons, and overall the variations in supplies has created, at times, some volatility in the market.” In addition to sourcing, Dan said, “Buying patterns have been different too. Just over the last several weeks we have had a variance in shipments that have been as much as 700 loads. That’s a lot. The good thing is that onions aren’t like asparagus or broccoli. We don’t have to worry about a lack of demand. It’s just been a pretty unusual spring.” And, he added, “Again, it does appear the market has steadied out, so that’s good.” On planting, Dan said that Keystone’s growers in the Northwest have been delayed. He explained, “Growers are behind due to weather, but what does that mean? It’s way too early to make any determinations on any crop that is in the middle of planting season. What it comes down to is the growing season, the yields growers end up with and all the factors in-between. We’ll see how things progress through the summer months and check back with me then.”
Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce in Nyssa, OR, reported demand has been good this week. “We are doing a lot of program business here towards the end, but demand has been very good for us,” he said. “We are shipping mostly yellows with reds in mixers. We look to continue shipping until April 25.” Jason also said the market has dipped. “There is no reason for it, but the market has dropped off a little. It should stabilize over the next week.”
Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce Sales in Parma, ID, sent us his final 2018-19 report on April 10. “That’s all she wrote!” Dwayne said. “We will be all finished up at all of our locations by Tuesday. It has been a great year of quality and a nice uptick in price at the end.” He added, “The market right now could use some cheerleading and excitement for sure. Seems the trend has been lowering price to try to stir business, which has had the opposite effect.” But, Dwayne said, “My soapbox aside, we are finished up and pleased with our finished product. The quality our farms and amazing growers brought us to pack and market was epic.”
Texas Rio Grande Valley:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco told us April 10 his Mexico deal had wrapped up that day, and Texas had started April 9. “All in all, Mexico is done, and it was a really good deal,” Don Ed said. “We started with Texas yesterday and are shipping reds and yellows. We’re clipping in a couple of places,” he said. Calling Wednesday “a slow day,” Don Ed said he thought “there still aren’t enough onions to go around,” and he commented, “Shipments are unusually low for this time of year, but business should pick up. This week we should be seeing an Easter push, but it’s quiet.” He said that 10 days to two weeks ago “we had days with high levels of shipments that filled up the pipeline,” and he said when shipments pick back up, “it will happen all at once.” He also said the border situation continues to bear watching. The United States has pulled bridge custom agents to patrol the river, and the result, according to various reports, has been longer wait times to cross. Don Ed also said with Mexico finishing its onion season, there could be additional opportunities to export into that country coming up.
John Harris with Paradigm Fresh in Fort Morgan had two weigh-ins this week, first Monday and then Wednesday. Monday’s report noted, “This week will be interesting. It rained a bit more in Texas over the weekend. Some areas didn’t get much and other areas got over two inches.” He said that the forecast for the next several days is calling for hot and dry. John also noted the falling yellow market, saying, “I expect that trend to continue. Reds still remain pretty tight on both new and old, and whites continue to see saw up and down between mid $40s and some shippers over $50.” On Wednesday he said the week is “somewhat quiet,” adding, “Markets in the Northwest and Texas are very steady so far this week. My gut feeling is that things are going to get a little sloppy over the next week.” Texas had seen some drying out, and John said there will be “more and more onions available each day down south.” In the meantime, “Daily shipments are below average and there are still six million bags of storage crop to go with California being two weeks out. The information that I have tells me that this thing is probably going to be pretty loose for the next couple of weeks.” He yellows “are definitely going to come off, and I think the red market will lower a bit on new crop. I do believe that the white market will continue to hold mostly steady.” John plans to switch to new crop in two weeks with California.
Jason Vee with Vee’s Marketing in Superior, WI, told us on April 10, “I’m working on shipping the remaining reds and yellows in Washington.” He added, “There are probably only four weeks left on storage onions. They save the strongest varieties and lots for last, so quality hasn’t been a problem. I think some of the salespeople are more tired than the onions, and I mean that empathetically. They just went through a very strange down-up-down season. The big up was hard on everyone.”
And he said, “Otherwise, it’s all eyes on Texas right now. I was just there last week making the rounds. I’m no field expert, so I’ll tread lightly on the crop reports. I did learn a lot on this trip, but keep in mind that I ride this chair for a living. Fields were still wet late last week, but it’s a hot and dry forecast ahead. The fields we saw were probably 60/40 jumbos to mediums with a little potential left for growth. It’s not a giant profile. So, yields will be on the low side of average. Demand is still very strong.”
Jason added, “Keep in mind, there are more onions coming. Vidalia start date is April 22. Imperial Valley, California is April. Summertime onions can be difficult to navigate for new buyers. I’m here to help. Feel free to call or email me if you have any questions about changing districts.”
California Imperial Valley:
Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce in Nyssa, OR, said that operation will be transitioning to the Imperial Valley at the conclusion of its Idaho-Oregon program. “Everything is looking good in the Imperial Valley,” Jason said. “The growers are right where they need to be for now, and we are looking forward to a good California season this year.”
Michael Locati with Pacific Agra Farms told us April 10 recent wet weather hasn’t had adverse effects. “It’s going pretty good,” he said. “It’s been a wet April, and we were afraid it would slow us down. But the transplants are done and the onions seeded, and actually, we think we’re catching up.” Michael said Walla Walla Sweets will “definitely be shipping by mid-June.” And many thanks to Michael Locati for sending this week’s featured image of Walla Walla fall-seeded onion crop.
Bob Sakata with Sakata Farms in Brighton will be celebrating his 93rd birthday on April 15, and OnionBusiness.com wishes our friend the most blessed of days and many more. Bob told us on April 10 Sakata Farms owner Robert T. Sakata is “about finished planting, and we will likely start harvesting the end of August.” The operation will grade until March, he said. “It’s been good planting weather,” Bob said, noting that a spring storm had been predicted for April 10. “But our onions will be in the ground, and they’ll be OK,” he said. Bob also said the farm’s onion program has not changed for 2019-20.
Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce in Nyssa, OR. told us April 10 that Eagle Eye’s planting has been going well for the growers. “Despite what some might be saying about the slowdown due to rain, our growers have been doing well,” he said, adding, “We are nearly 100 percent in the ground.”
Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce Sales in Parma, ID, followed his final market report of the just-ending shipping season with this crop update: “On the farm side I wish we could say, ‘That’s all she wrote’ in reference to our planting. Mother Nature has kept it cold and wet! We are probably about 60 percent planted and behind on every aspect related to tasks that need to be done with equipment in a muddy field.” The new season, he said, “is always interesting, and it’s off to a wet start. The only thing that seems to be consistent in this industry we love is the increased amount of cold hard cash that it takes to raise this crop.”
Grant Kitamura with Baker & Murakami Produce Company in Ontario, OR sent us this crop photo below taken on April 9 at one of his brothers’ fields, showing hook and flag stage onion progress.