Featured image: New Mexico crop, courtesy of James Johnson with Carzalia Valley Produce in Columbus
John Vlahandreas with Wada Farms reported to us on April 15 from his Salem, OR, office. “First, everyone is all healthy here,” John said. “Demand right now isn’t terrible. In fact, it’s picking up a bit. Small onions have been moving because of retail and no foodservice business, but you know some places may be opening up because there are some foodservice orders out there. The feeling is that something good on that end is coming, and when it does come, everyone will need to be ready. I am headed down to Troy Caston Farms in Brawley, CA, at the end of the week, and we’ll have to see how the market is looking before we start shipping. We should have a good transition because the Northwest is starting to clean up, but we also really don’t need to start moving onions if the pricing isn’t there. We’re just kind of waiting to see what happens.”
Steve Baker with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, said on April 14 that demand this week “continues to be slow like the previous two weeks.” He said, “Demand for medium yellows and at times medium reds is greater than for larger sizes.” And, Steve added, “The market, for the most part, has been fairly steady this week. The exception to this is shippers who are close to finishing for the season. They are clearing their floors at discounted prices to be done.” Steve said at Baker & Murakami Produce, “We have good availability on yellows and reds, and we are seeing very good quality coming out of storage.” As far as a finish date, he said, “We will be going into May. How far into May will depend on day-to-day business!” There are no issues securing transportation, he said.
Chris Woo with Owyhee Produce in Nyssa, OR, and Parma, ID, told us on April 14, “Weather has been picture-perfect all week, and most of the onions planted so for 2020 harvest will start in early August.” He said Owyhee Produce is now water and has “adequate moisture in the ground and up in the mountains with snowpack.” At the shed, he said, the operation is “still packing a few loads out of cold storage for program customers. We will be done here shortly and then will transition with local harvest and sales of fresh asparagus and new crop onions packing and shipping out of Palm Springs. California, here we come.”
Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce Sales in Parma, ID, checked in on April 15 to say, “We hope everyone is doing well, staying positive and healthy! The light is coming.” And, Dwayne added, “Demand has been off at historical rates for us. Our long-term storage onions are absolutely beautiful coming out of cold storage, and it is a shame that many will likely be dumped. We plan to continue to pack as long as we can and move as many as possible, but reality is that the pit will probably see a lot of this given current demand. We will see how it all shakes out as we get into May.” He continued, “It sounds like we are down to just a handful of the larger shippers in Idaho-E. Oregon, but that is still a lot of volume available to ship. There is no question an evaluation of what onions are allowed to be imported from foreign countries needs to be looked at. Growers need to also take some responsibility and make sure they are aligning themselves with companies that are investing and promoting American-grown crops.” He concluded, “In regard to planting, we will finish this week, and I believe that will be the case for our region. Early stands look very good at this time. This reinforces the fact that, as always, we will have the supply we need to take care of onion demand in the USA for the entire season.”
Texas Rio Grande Valley:
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission told us on April 14 he’s running through the end of next week out of the Rio Grande Valley. “Movement is very, very good,” he said. “However, the market is below profitable levels. But we’re keeping people working, and we’re still shipping all three colors.” David said all retail sizing and packs are in good demand.
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco said on April 14 he continues to harvest in the Rio Grande Valley, taking it “week by week.” He said, “Movement is still pretty good, but I think this week or next week will probably be it for harvesting.” Noting there’s “no rhyme nor reason” for upticks, he added, “I do know when it wakes back up, the onion market will go to the moon. But it’s like watching a roulette table – you just don’t know where it’s going to stop.” Don Ed also said he’s moving whites out of Mexico, with the Chihuahua deal to start in two weeks. The white market has been good, he said.
Doug Bulgrin with Gumz Farms in Endeavor said on April 15 that operation will continue its season through May 22. “We’re shipping mostly medium and jumbo yellows,” Doug said. “Quality is good, and movement is above average for us.” Pricing, he said, is “steady.” Planting has started on the 2020 crop, and Doug said harvesting will start in late August.
Danny Ray with Ray Farms Inc. in Glennville told us on April 15 that the family-owned company was anxious for the Vidalia start-up April 16. “We decided not to go early with Georgia Sweets and wait for the official start off of the Vidalia season,” Danny Ray said. “This season’s crop looks very good. The onions have good size and color.” He added d that Ray Farms has a good amount of orders on the books. “Our customers are looking forward to the new Vidalia season, and it is good for us that we are primarily in retail and don’t have to rely on foodservice with this whole COVID-19 deal. It has been such a nightmare for everyone. I’ve told friends that it’s like watching a horror movie, but we’re in it. We all good here, thank the Lord, and we hope everyone is staying healthy and safe!”
James Johnson with Carzalia Valley Produce in Columbus told us on April 14, “The crop is right on track for third week May, and we will still start with our Chihuahua crop May 1 it looks like.”
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission told us on April 14 he’s two weeks out from the start of the season in Eagle Pass. “Everything looks good,” he said. “We’ll start a little early, and we’ll have all three colors pretty quick.” Sizing on the Wintergarden crop is more moderate than the Rio Grande Valley’s has been, he said, and the season will run through June 5-10. Acres are “the same as they’ve been since 2002, and we’ll ship between 400,000 and 500,000 units.” He said he’s seeing “a little foodservice business, but it’s only 20-30 percent of what we’d expect.” And he said retail is good, but “not enough to make up for the foodservice.”
Colorado Western Slope/Utah:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said his Colorado and Utah growers are either finished or nearly finished with planting. Colorado traditionally starts harvests in late August/Labor Day, and Utah starts its season later in the year.
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission, TX, said his two Colorado growers, Ahlberg Farms and Hines Farms in the Delta area, are nearly finished with planting. He added that the cold weather Colorado has had recently did refreeze some ground.