Featured image courtesy of Robert Bell, Imperial Valley onions as of April 20, 2020
California Imperial Valley:
Robert Bell with Western Onion in Camarillo said on April 22, “I returned from Imperial Valley yesterday.” He noted that the Valley has been very quiet this week with only a couple of operations active, adding that that weather was “heating up today and should remain above 100 degrees for five days, so everyone will get going soon.” Robert continued, “We start organic Tuesday on our reds and whites then continue on to our yellows. The plan for us is 1,000,000 pounds a day every day until finished. Everything goes north to Bako for storage or packing. We go hard to get them out of the heat ASAP then pack as needed.” Check out Robert’s photos in a separate post this week.
On April 22 we had the chance to catch up with our good friend Derek Ennis with L&M Cos. in Raleigh, NC. Derek told us that it looks like foodservice demand has picked up in the last few days. “We are still shipping out of Warden, WA, and we’ll have a couple more weeks there,” he said. “The quality is still very nice. In fact, we saved our best onions for the finish of the season. Our Calipatria, CA, crop is being harvested today, and we will start packing on Monday, so we’ll have two areas going at once. The size profile to start out of California will be small, which is a good thing since there is more demand for smaller onions. The California crop is very good and we don’t have any seeders.” Derek said L&M will be shipping some Vidalia onions. “We do have a few customers that have ordered Vidalia, and we are shipping some,” he said. “We have reports that the crop there is good and quality is nice as well.” And Derek commented on the increase in foodservice. “We feel like the trend of increased foodservice is a good sign,” he said. “We really just need the country to open back up so folks can get back to their lives.”
Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce in Nyssa, OR, reported that Eagle Eye is still shipping out of Idaho-Oregon and Washington. “Demand for our stuff coming out of Nyssa has been really pretty good,” he said. “Washington has been a little slower, but not bad. I do want buyers to know that despite what is being said in reports and interviews about dumping onions in Idaho/Oregon, that’s just not the case with everyone. As far as Eagle Eye goes, we have quality onions and we ARE shipping.” Jason added that foodservice has begun to open up. “The market overall has been sluggish, which is no surprise, but foodservice is starting to open up, and that’s a good sign.”
Rick Greener with Greener Produce in Ketchum reported about his free-range brokerage, while on lockdown in his mountain valley home in Idaho. “We are all safe and well here,” Rick said. “We hope all of our industry friends are, too. Our area was pretty hard hit with the virus. And you know, it seems like it may have run through our community about five weeks ago, and maybe 80 to 90 percent of us had it and didn’t really know it at the time. Which is a good thing, right? We may be in a position to open back up to some sense of normalcy. Thank goodness we have the technology to stay connected. The boys can interact with their teachers through Zoom and Facetime helps too.” On the onion side of things, Rick said things continue to be strange. “Retail continues to drive the market. If you can find mediums, take ‘em, and you’re going to pay for them. It is still hard to move large onions, and that’s just reality.” He continued, “The deliveries I’ve had out of the Northwest have been great. Now that Cali is comin’ on at the end of the week, there will be a lot of onions out there, so we’ll just have to see what happens. Like I reported earlier, we are in unforeseen territory, and we can’t predict what’s going to happen.”
Texas Rio Grande Valley/Mexico/Eagle Pass:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco said he’ll finish shipping the Rio Grande Valley the middle of next week, “which is really early for us.” He said crews finished clipping last Friday. In Mexico, the Torreón whites will finish next week and Chihuahua whites will start and run until mid-June.
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission said his Rio Grande Valley crop will finish the middle of next week, and the Eagle Pass crop will start. “There will be no gap and no overlap,” David said. “We’ll finish harvesting in the Rio Grande Valley tomorrow.” When asked about the season, he said, “Two words: Foodservice matters. It was announced on Monday that Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina are relaxing some restrictions, and we packed out multiple loads the next day. Most of those companies haven’t ordered in about three weeks.” And, David added, “People are ready to go. They’re ready for someone else to do the cooking and cleaning.”
Cliff Riner with G&R Farms in Glennville, GA, said on April 22 the Vidalia season is going well. “We’re working with steady business,” he said, adding, “We’re storing as much as possible.” Retail demand has been good, and Cliff said the smaller consumer packs are moving best. “We haven’t had to change our packaging,” he said. The quality of this year’s crop is good, and recent rains haven’t caused damage. “Everything we’re clipping looks good,” he said. “The past storm front brought heavy rain and wind, and there are more storms in the forecast. Of course, with every storm we get a little nervous.”
Colorado Western Slope/Utah:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said his Colorado and Utah growers have their crops in the ground. Colorado is anticipating a start the third week of August, and Utah begins its season later in the fall.
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission, TX, said his two Colorado growers are all in and watching the onions grow.