Featured image: Harvest equipment waiting for fields to dry out in Eastern Oregon following recent storms, photo courtesy of Chris Woo
John Vlahandreas with Wada Farms reported in on Aug. 23 from his Salem, OR. sales office. “Demand is fairly high this week,” he said. “With the rains in Idaho-E. Oregon, there are a lot of people out there looking for onions. We have been pulling a few out of Idaho, but we’re mostly selling out of Washington and California.” He continued, “It looks like, for the most part California will be finished up in the next couple of weeks. You are going to have onions coming out of there but not enough to make it a factor on movement out of the Northwest.” And John added, “When it comes to the yields in the Northwest, the feeling overall is good this year. In general, growers are feeling happy about the yields and quality, and from what I’ve seen, quality is excellent. Now, no one is going to know for sure until later in September how storage will all play out, but for now, shippers can go at an even pace. That makes for a strong and steady market, and when you’re in a spot like where we are now, that can be a grower’s and shipper’s best friend. This very well could be a great season for these guys!” On transportation, John said, “Transportation has been good, but it looks like rates could be going a little higher, so you need to watch for that.”
Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce in Nyssa, OR, told us on Aug. 23 that his team is selling onions out of California, Washington and Idaho-E. Oregon this week. “New Mexico is finished up, and we will be done with our California program next week,” he said. “We have had a rain delay in Eastern Oregon, and hopefully we will be back in the fields this weekend. With the rain coming through the last couple days, it hasn’t impacted the onions at all. It’s just keeping us out of the fields for a bit on harvest. If anything, it’s going to help the onions cure and develop more paper, so our only concern is getting back out there.” Marc Bybee with Eagle Eye also commented on the storms, saying, “Sales out of the Nyssa facility have been great, and our production crew here is working their butts off to get things done. The storms that hit were crazy, and harvest has been delayed until fields dry. It’s hard to guess when that will be, but there is very likely to be a gap in packing. We saw that the storm was coming and harvested significant amounts, but it doesn’t appear to be enough not to have an impact.” Marc said that while it’s early to say what the long-term effects might be, “The only sure thing is that additional steps will need to be taken to mitigate disease risk from the storm. So the cost of growing an onion goes up even more.” And he quipped, “Should have known when the storm was named Hilary it would be a problem.” With regard to demand, Jason said it’s been very good this week. “We are really busy this week,” he said. “Buyers are ordering all colors and sizes, and sales have been brisk. We hope to capitalize with a ‘rain’ market, but regardless, with the summer deals winding down, we anticipate the market responding positively.” On transportation, Jason said it’s a little more difficult. “Freight’s gotten a little tougher this week,” he said. “We can get trucks, but I think trucks are in reposition mode getting back up to the Northwest.” Many thanks to Marc Bybee for sharing a recent photo of stormwater draining from a grower’s field.
Robert Bell with Western Onion in Camarillo checked in with us on Aug. 22, saying conditions in his area are somewhat settled after what might be called a Biblical week in the Sunshine state. SoCal had not only Hurricane Hilary but also an earthquake and tornado warnings. “Only an inch and 8/10ths of rain here,” he said. “We felt a few earthquakes that were centered about 30 miles from us. All back to normal.” Crews were expecting to get in the fields “ Monday or early next week for San Joaquin,” and Robert added, “We’re going to start bringing onions down from the Northwest next week.”
Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce in Parma, ID, told us on Aug. 23 the recent rain has caused a delay, and there will likely be a gap in production. But there WILL be onions from the Treasure Valley. Dwayne said, “It’s all hands on deck, and a helicopter! Two-plus inches of rain in two days means change of plans and focus shift to making sure our onions are protected from the potential effects of this historic hurricane. Will we have onions? Absolutely! Might we gap next week? Absolutely! Is there a big additional cost now to the growers? ABSOLUTELY!” Dwayne added, “Regardless of what the talking points are, there is always a cost to a storm. Those costs primarily hit the grower.” He went on to look at the market, saying, “The market has been steady for us this week. When California finishes up, we should see even more stability. None of our growers were itching to get in before the storms given where the market is. It just doesn’t make a ton of sense to push hard early at these prices on a crop that is going to fit long-term in the barns. Now, it could be seven to12 days before we can get back to harvesting, even if we want to.” He went on to say, “According to the USDA market report, the neighbors to the north seem to be moving more onions than the rest of the areas combined. The message to below the border should be loud and clear: We have it covered. This next week gap for us should allow California a small window to clean up and look forward to next season. We could use some wind and some more wind. I can’t believe I would ever hope for wind, but here we are. I am hoping for wind!”
Chris Woo also provided an update on Treasure Valley weather conditions and harvest delay resulting from Hurricane Hilary’s inland movement, telling us Monday the weekend and early week rain had been beneficial in helping settle field dust and in cooling the ground. On Tuesday he gave us another update, saying more rain had fallen, and crews are waiting to get back into the fields. So far the onions are faring well, he said. Monday’s report started, “If some of your readers were wondering, this morning’s tropical showers were more than a blessing. We had very little wind with intermittent showers and occasional moments of steady downpour – but no hail.” Chris said the first round of showers “cooled off the ground and more than knocked down the ever-present field dust. Present onion and later varieties benefited from the added moisture, which helped push the nutrients back towards the onion bulbs. That helps finalize the end of their growing season.” The rain was good for the onions and other crops in the region, he said – “spuds, corn, beans and sugar beets have made it out in good shape.” Tuesday, Chris checked in and said, “It rained again right now in Idaho-Oregon, and we probably won’t be able to get back in the fields for a while. We were still drying out from Monday’s tropical storm.” Chris said the onions “just need to have more drying time now, and hopefully we’ll get back in the field first of the week. Future weather forecast says we’ll be dry and in the 80-90 range.”
Brad Sumner with Pacific Coast Trading Co. in Portland gave us a good look at organic onion demand, quality, market conditions and production areas this week, saying on Aug. 22, “Demand for medium yellow organics onions remains very high. They are the hot ticket item. Demand is up a little more on the whites and reds as well due to Tropical Storm Hilary.” He added, “Some new, ready-for-harvest fields got a little extra rain in Southern California and Baja Mexico over the weekend, delaying production.” Brad said the market is holding its own. “Organic onion market is steady with a little spike in OG whites as supplies thin out. Everyone’s paying a little extra for medium yellow OGs and a little less on deals for jumbo yellow OGs.” Asked about production areas now shipping and those wrapping up, Brad said, “The bigger sheds in California will pack until November and beyond. Bakersfield should be done by Labor Day. I spoke with a sales rep out of New Mexico, and he was driving home – all done with the area as of Friday last week.” Looking at the Northwest, Brad said, it is “ full production, finishing up transplants and early intermediates, heading into more direct seed and longer day varieties.” He noted quality has been nice out of Washington and Baja. “Our Baja Mexico crop, when we get some of it, has been really nice. The quality on the transplants out of Washington has been good as well.” Looking at imports and their possible impact on the market, Brad said, “No imported organic onions are entering the country at this time except for what is left in Baja California. The crop out of Baja is late, and this is uncharacteristic for the season.” He also addressed transportation, noting, “The Washington-to-Los Angeles lanes are loosening up with product heading both directions now. I anticipate a slow and steady rise into the holidays which now do not feel so far away…”
Colorado Western Slope/Corinne, UT:
Don Ed Holmes with the The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said on Aug. 23 his Colorado grower is expecting to start up Sept. 10. “We’re two weeks out in Colorado,” he said, adding his Corinne season will kick off Oct. 10. “We’re all good,” Don Ed said. Colorado will ship all sizes and colors at the start. The season traditionally runs through the end of the year.