Featured image courtesy of James Johnson with Carzalia Valley Produce, Columbus, NM
The 2019 Vidalia Onion season kicked off April 22, and Troy Bland, chair of the Vidalia Onion Committee, said, “We have had a strong harvest, and consumers can look forward to a bountiful supply of Vidalia onions. According to Troy, 9,356 acres of Vidalia onions will be harvested this year and will comprise 62 percent of sweet onion sales in the United States and 22 percent of total onion sales. The VOC launched its new “The Sweet Life” campaign to highlight the sweets, and Troy noted, “After a successful two-year marketing effort to raise the profile of Vidalia onions among food connoisseurs, ‘The Sweet Life’ leverages our enhanced brand prominence to a wider audience.”
John Harris with Paradigm Fresh in Fort Morgan reported on Monday, April 22, “We are ready for another big week.” Noting So Cali’s start and the first day of Vidalia shipping, John also said, “Texas is around mid-way through their season, although of what is left, it is not a ton of volume. Last but not least storage crop in the Northwest is still pumping out daily shipments with enough volume to continue for another six weeks or so.” He called prices “a bit sporadic… with everyone having a slightly different interpretation of where this market is trading at. Generally speaking whites are starting to come off a bit, but the overall market remains high. Reds are pretty steady in both the northwest and new crop for now, and the yellow market is volatile. Storage crop and new crop came off last week and I will expect to see that tend to continue with California putting more pressure on the market this week.” On Wednesday John updated his report, saying, “Market is mostly steady, but with multiple shipping areas going right now, there is definitely a mix of prices from one shed to another.” California was hitting volume, and Texas “has good supplies on most colors and sizes.” John was seeing “plenty of storage crop onions,” and he said, “There are a few medium reds floating around Texas at the moment which is a new development.”
Texas Rio Grande Valley:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco told us April 24 that after having been the “tail” to the Northwest’s “dog,” “All of a sudden, we’re the dog.” He said, “The majority of the South and Southeast and Midwest are coming here for new crop. The market is steady, and movement is outstanding.” This year’s Rio Grande Valley onions also have outstanding quality, he said, and he added, “We could see another two weeks of steady movement, and then it will start wrapping up. We’re over the halfway point now.” Shipping reds, whites and yellows, the Onion House is getting some of its whites out of Torreón, Mexico. “That’s about all that we’re doing out of Mexico now,” Don Ed said, noting the quality of the whites is beautiful, and they’re bringing a good price. “That will wrap up at about the same time as Texas. And we have multiple loads of jumbo yellows going to Mexico today.”
Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce reported from his sales office in Nyssa, OR, on April 24, “Demand for us has been very good this week. We are down to shipping yellows out of Idaho/Oregon and will complete the season here at the middle of next week before transitioning to Brawley, CA.” On the market, Jason reported it as steady. “Sure, the market should be higher right now, but it is holding steady, which is good.” He said quality has been excellent throughout the season, which includes the last shipments. “We have had great quality all season long. Now, we are looking toward the next season and we are about 90 percent planted and are in good shape.”
Ryan Stewart with Fort Boise Produce in Parma, ID, told us April 24, “We will be shipping into May and have good supplies of all sizes of yellows.” Ryan said Fort Boise is out of whites, and reds are tight. “Demand is steady,” Ryan said, and he added, “The market is hanging in there. It’s trending down just a little, but that’s to be expected during transition from old crop to new crop.”
Steve Baker with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, reported on April 24 that “demand has been fair this week.” He said, “Early in the week we had a run on customers wanting medium yellows. Mid-week we’re seeing more interest on colossals and super colossals.” Steve added that the market “has been steady for us this week,” and he said availability and quality both are good. “We have good availability on yellows. We have mixer quantities of reds,” he said. “Quality has been good, and everything we are packing now is coming out of cold storage.” Next week the Treasure Valley will be down to about a half-dozen shippers still packing, and Steve said transportation has been available. “We are able to get trucks for all of our orders we need,” he said.
John Vlahandreas with Wada Farms told us on April 24 that he has been busy this week. “Demand is good, and the market is steady,” he said. “You would expect that after the holiday things would slow down a bit, but I have been surprisingly busy this week. It looks like we will be done with the shipments we have out of Washington by the end of the week, and Idaho has about 10 more days before they finish there. Then we’ll transition to the Imperial Valley.”
Jason Vee with Vee’s Marketing in Superior, WI, told us April 24, “The districts are starting to bunch up. We have had exceptionally high markets for two months now, especially on whites.” He continued, “I was explaining to a customer earlier this week how that was happening and why it’s different than other times we have hit high markets. The difference is that when the Northwest shut off whites abruptly this time, all eyes went to Mexico. But the Mexican market was as strong as the U.S. So crossings were down. And when crossings finally ramped up, demand ate it up anyway.” Jason said, “A lot of pieces have to fall perfectly into place to hit and maintain a white market like we have right now. It’s profound to say we go down from here. It’s just a matter of when. Now that Texas is going strong, there are still some Mexican crossings, and imperial Valley is starting; the districts overlap. I expect the red and white market to start showing some decline.” And, he said, “Speaking of new districts, Vidalia started on Monday. The official start date of Vidalia onions was on the Monday after Easter Sunday. What? They have had onions in Georgia for the last two weeks. I can’t figure out the strategy of waiting until the Monday after Easter for an official start date. And when I have asked other onion peers why, no one has been able to tell me either. If anyone wants to set me straight on that, let me know.”
California Imperial Valley:
John Vlahanadreas with Wada Farms reported to us from his office in Salem, OR, on April 24. “I will be headed to Brawley on Monday, and we will start shipments from Troy Caston’s place on Tuesday,” John said. “We are excited to get going, and we expect very good quality, but there is no denying that the whole valley has a lot of seeders. Luckily, we work with a great shipper that puts makes sure quality gets in the bag.”
Michael Locati with Pacific Agra Farms said the weather in the Walla Walla growing area has “changed for the better,” and he added the 2019 crop is “growing really well and on track.” Michael continued, “We’re really happy with the way the fall seeded crop looks, and the transplants are doing very well too.” He said “about June 10” is the anticipated start for harvest, and he said, “We’ll definitely have onions available by Father’s Day.” The onions are packed at Walla Walla River Packing, and Michael said a new line has been installed this year. “It helps with the labor shortage,” he said of the primary benefit. In addition it has optical sorting and provides multiple pack sizes.
Ryan Stewart with Fort Boise Produce in Parma, ID, said that operation’s 2019-20 crop is “close to all in.” He added, “The weather has been good.” Noting the area did have rains that slowed planting a bit, Ryan said the onions are being planted within the normal window, and at this point everything looks good.
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said his growers in Western Colorado and Corrine, UT, are wrapping up with their planting, and the Colorado harvest usually starts shortly after Labor Day. Corinne will start in October.
James Johnson with Carzalia Valley Produce in Columbus told us April 24 his crop is progressing well, and the forecast is “excellent.” He said, “We’ve revised our New Mexico crop start to June 1. We had been thinking the third week of May, but some cooler spring weather pushed it back a week. This time of year we think of the onions as doubling their size every 10 days,” he said of the added time being given to the crop. When the crop starts, it will run to Aug. 15 and will have all three colors and sweets. In the meantime, he said, Carzalia Valley will start shipping onions from Chihuahua, Mexico, on May 5.
Many thanks to James for this week’s featured image. View more of James’ great photos below.