Featured image: Walla Walla crop progress, courtesy of Michael Locati with Locati Farms and Pacific Agra Farms
Trent Faulkner with L&M Cos. in Raleigh, NC, told us on April 21 that demand has slowed a bit this week, but the company is still moving a good amount of yellows and reds out of their Warden operation. “The truck situation doesn’t help matters, but thankfully our quality is very good, so that has kept customers ordering from our Northwest growers,” he said. “We are moving all sizes, leaning mostly to jumbos. The market is sort of stagnant, with reds being somewhat of a lifeline right now. There’s more demand for reds, so we’re seeing some increase in pricing there. But on yellows, it is not exact, and that has a lot to do with freight and delivered pricing. It’s a back and forth kind of deal. Again, we’re thankful we’re dealing with quality onions out there.” Trent said the Warden operation could finish up mid-May. “It all depends on how fast we move through our onions,” he said. “We shouldn’t have much overlap with California.”
Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing reported from his Walla Walla Sales office on April 21. “Our Sweet onion deal is clicking right along” he said. “We just got started in Vidalia, and we are moving sweets out of Mexico and Texas this week. Mexico is nearly done, but the quality coming out of Texas and Mexico is very good.” He continued, “This just the first week with the Vidalia crop, but so far so good with quality there too. We are still moving hybrids out of the Northwest, and we’ll probably be shipping those until the end of May. The Northwest overwinters are coming right along though and we expect to start shipping those in June.” On the demand side of things, Dan said it has slowed up. “April hasn’t been as brisk as last month,” Dan said. “This isn’t outside the norm, and it’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason, but demand has dropped off a bit. To be certain, freight challenges haven’t helped. When you compare last year’s freight costs to this time last year, rates are up 25 percent, and some projections indicate rates could jump another 25 percent this summer, so it looks like the challenge isn’t going away in the foreseeable future. Still, we’re looking at a good summer for quality and demand should increase in the weeks and months ahead.”
John Vlahandreas with Wada Farms provided his report from the Imperial Valley, CA, this week. “Demand for Northwest onions really hasn’t been too bad this week,” he said. “We’ve had decent demand for yellows, and reds are starting to get some good action.” He commented on the market, saying, “I would say the market is steady. Sure, it’s not fantastic, but I would say it’s not terrible.” And, he continued, “We’ll probably go through the month of May out of Washington and Idaho-Oregon will clean up in the next couple of weeks. Quality-wise everything has been going pretty well. We haven’t had any issues or complaints, so that’s good news for this time of year.”
Chris Woo with Owyhee Produce in Nyssa, OR, and Parma, ID, said on April 21 the company was finishing up its Idaho-E. Oregon onion cold storage crop. “There’s not much more to go,” Chris said. “We just have some outbound contracts that we have put away for.” He said weather in the Treasure Valley has been “a little windy, clear and dry. We need some rain.” In the meantime, Owyhee is starting its asparagus season, and he said, “Labor is tight for picking and for shed help.”
Steve Baker with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, said on April 21, “Demand has been fair this week. Jumbo yellows and jumbo reds have been the better moving items.” He added that the onion market is “holding fairly steady,” and he said, “I don’t see anything changing the rest of the week.” Steve continued, “Our quality has been outstanding. This might be the best-looking late crop I have seen.” And on transportation, he said, “It still has its challenges with driver shortages and high rates. I think this will continue through the spring and summer months.”
Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce in Nyssa, OR, told us on April 21 that business has been good this week. “Demand has been steady for us,” he said. “Yellows are moving at a pretty good pace, and there is good demand on reds. Pricing for reds seems to be better than yellows. Yellows have dropped, and that has a lot to do with sheds cleaning up, which is discouraging. You would think that we could be getting more return for our growers, and it doesn’t make much sense, particularly with such great quality we have here at the end.” Jason said Eagle Eye will be shipping Northwest onions through the end of next week. “We’re looking at the end of next week or until supplies run out.”
Texas Rio Grande Valley:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco said on April 21 he’s about halfway through the S. Texas deal, with about another two weeks to go. “The market is steady,” he said. “We keep expecting it to be better, but it’s chugging along at steady.” Don Ed said he has a good mix of colors and sizes remaining.
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in McAllen told us on April 21 he’s at the halfway point with the Rio Grande Valley deal, noting, “We’ll finish around May 10-12,” David said. “And we will start in Wintergarden within days after that.” He said he’s still shipping all sizes and colors from the RGV. When asked about labor, he said, “Labor has been a challenge in the area. It hasn’t slowed us down personally, but it’s an issue in the Valley.” David said pricing has been “lower than we want it to be.”
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said on April 21 he continues to bring in “absolute diamonds” white onions from Torreón. “They are really beautiful,” he said of the whites, adding, “We’ll have yellows and reds from there next week.” Torreón will wind down in early May, and Chihuahua will dovetail, with whites, Don Ed said. “Right now we’re about two weeks away from the Chihuahua onions,” he said.
Hugo Flores with Organic King in La Paz, Mexico, reported on the company’s Tampico program on April 20. “This week, we’re shipping 42 loads to the US,” Hugo said. “The split is about even between the East and West Coast with mostly yellows, about 25 loads, being shipped. The balance is reds and whites.” He continued, “The market is steady for yellows and whites right now, and it is increasing for reds because demand exceeds supply.” Hugo said quality continues to be very good. “Our quality is holding very well, and our clients are giving us positive feedback on deliveries,” he said. “We have provided photos of our recent shipments showing the quality of our product.” On transportation, Hugo noted that rates are high. “Freight is still a challenge, and rates remain high. It’s something we just have to stay on top of for our clients.” Many thanks to Hugo for sending this week’s installment of the onions his company is shipping this week.
Michael Locati with Locati Farms and Pacific Agra Farms said on April 21 the crop is progressing well, with a start date still projected for mid-June “or maybe earlier.” He said, “It’s a little early in the season to be this busy (with irrigation, etc.), but we are. The crop looks great, and for sure we expect Walla Walla Sweets in mid-June. It looks now like it could be a bit earlier, but we’ll talk in May.” The labor situation thus far has been good, with an adequate number of workers for transplants. “It’s hard to say for harvest,” Michael said. He did note that Locati Farms and Pacific Agra generally hire locally and have many of the same crew members return each year. Many thanks to Michael for sending beautiful photos of his Walla Walla crop.
Colorado Western Slope/Corinne, Utah:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said both Western Slope Colorado onions and those in Corinne, UT, are all in, and the crop is coming along. Both areas harvest in late summer/early fall, with Corinne storing and starting its shipping season in October.
Colorado Western Slope:
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in McAllen, TX, said his Delta growers are finished planting, and the crop is progressing well. A Labor Day start is expected as normal.
North Carolina/New Mexico:
Trent Faulkner with L&M Cos. in Raleigh, NC, reported this week that the company’s North Carolina and Deming, NM, deals are progressing well. “We have a small deal with three growers in North Carolina,” Trent said. “It adds up to about 150 acres, so it’s a small deal with primarily yellows with a few trial reds. We’ll get going there the first part to mid-June and run about four weeks.” Trent said Billy the Kid’s crop in Deming should start up around June 8 or 10. “We did get a little bit of that weather on the early stuff, which slowed the crop down a bit,” Trent said. “It has caused a small delay in the start-up, but once we get going, things will be back to normal. Overall, the crop looks really nice, and we expect a very good season there.”