Featured image: New crop harvest for Sunset Produce in Prosser, WA, courtesy of Brenden Kent
Megan Jacobsen with Gills Onions in Oxnard summed it up for everyone on Aug. 26 when she said, “What a year 2020 has been!” She continued, “Gills Onions have not been directly affected by the fires and storms currently in California; however, indirectly it is causing extremely poor air quality conditions in Bakersfield, where we are currently harvesting. Our crews have been provided additional personal protective gear to decrease risk of ash and air pollution.” Megan added, “The safety and wellbeing of our workers is our top priority. We are very appreciative of all farmworkers, as well as firefighters, who continue to work during these wildfires to keep us safe and fed. Our prayers are with all affected by these fires.” Megan said the team was “currently wrapping up harvest in Bakersfield and will be transitioning to Fresno County in the coming two weeks, followed by our King City growing region. Planting preparations in Imperial County have also already began for 2021 growing season. It is hard to believe we are already preparing for next year.”
Washington and Peru:
Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing in Walla Walla, WA, reported this week that Keystone is finishing up its Walla Walla program and is now shipping Washington hybrids and onions from Peru. “We are very happy with how the Walla Walla season turned out,” Dan said. “We had excellent quality, good yields, very good pricing and a lot of demand. It was definitely a hit for these Walla Walla guys.” He added that the new Red Rosé did very well. “We were especially pleased with our Red Rosé variety,” Dan said. “We had a great response from retailers, and next season we intend to grow the market for this variety.” He also said that Keystone is now shipping out of Washington with hybrids. “We had some heat at the end, and it did have a very minor effect on the onions, but it was nothing detrimental, and quality has been good. Demand is good, but we do need to remember that at the end of August and the first part of September, retailers are resetting their produce sections from summer items to fall displays,” he said. Dan added, “Looking at past history of shipments for this time of year, you can see it’s reflected in the movement.” He went on to say that Keystone has been shipping yellows and reds and will start whites this week. “We are also shipping our sweets out of Peru, and we now have shipments available in all ports. So far things are going well, but the U.S. is only into it with 400 loads, and that’s not much when the overall Peruvian imports to the U.S. are approximately 5,000 loads each season. For the Keystone program, anticipate we will have another good season for our Mayan Sweets..” Many thanks to Dan for providing Keystone’s new Washington crop photos.
Brenden Kent with Sunset Produce in Prosser said on Aug. 26, “Harvest is Washington is going well. Yields seem to be average to slightly below average at this point, and quality has been very good so far.” Brenden added, “As long as the weather holds, we anticipate a normal harvest this year with normal completion.” He said, “Market has been very active up to this week, and we are hopeful for a good market moving forward with good demand. We expect good demand for the upcoming Labor Day holiday, so we are optimistic moving forward.” Many thanks to Brenden for providing Sunset’s harvest photos.
Jared Gutierrez with Columbia Basin Onion in Hermiston, OR, provided us with an update from his region, saying, “Demand has been good this week with movement in all colors, sizes and organic now that buyers are transitioning more to the PNW.” He continued, “Whites perked up this week with more movements domestically and into Mexico. Yellows still are the main interest, though, along with the good news that the USDA Food Box Program has been extended. That will help keep things moving along and hopefully keep strength in the market.” And, he said, “As for transportation, it’s a little tough to get reefers, but with the weather backing off some, flatbeds have helped.” Bottom line, Jared commented, “As I said before, the weather has been good and has allowed for a good harvest. And with that, I wish safety and health for everyone.”
Steve Baker with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, told us on Aug. 26, that demand has “been fairly good this week,” adding, “We are shipping yellows, whites, and reds, and we have good supply on all colors.” Steve also said, “Quality has been very good.” The market, he said, “for the most part has been fairly steady.” And he added, “Transportation on trucks has been challenging at times since last week. This has caused some occasional delays for on time delivery. We are encouraging customers not to wait until the last minute to order.”
Dan Phillips with Central Produce Distributors in Payette, ID, said on Aug. 26, “The onions are looking better every day, and the market is steady.” He also called movement “good on all sizes and colors,” and he said Central is seeing stronger retail demand. “Transportation is tough,” he noted of trucks. “We haven’t started with rail but will get into it more with our storage onions.” About 2020, Dan said, “We’ve definitely had some abnormal obstacles in our way, but we’re getting it figured out.”
Herb Haun with Haun Packing in Weiser, ID, weighed in on Aug. 26, telling us, “We’re moving all colors and sizes, and demand is good. The market is pretty good as well.” Pointing out a silver lining to smoke and cloud cover in the West, Herb said, “We’re able to leave the onions on the ground a little longer and get a better cure.” And about transportation, he said, “Trucks are tight, but they’re adequate.”
Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce Sales in Parma, ID, said on Aug. 26, “It is good to be home! Champion and Tamura’s are full steam ahead with all hands-on deck – well as many hands as can be found. The labor market in our valley remains very tight with wages in our facilities at all-time highs.” He continued, “One thing in this entire deal that is crystal clear, for growers and shippers, is that our production costs have never been higher! The market remains very steady and stable, with all the volume sheds in production in the Treasure Valley. The marketing staffs have done a great job in these early weeks of production. This definitely should be and feels to be our floor.” Dwayne went on to say, “Big onions remain very tight and are easy to move and get a premium on. With the Box Food Program getting settled in again, the new bids for this coming quarter are being finalized, and we are seeing more interest on small stuff as well.” Also, he noted, “In terms of harvest, we have now cut the water on all of our fields, and lifting will start before we know it. We really need the smoke to clear out of the valley to let the UV rays in to do their part in getting us the best storage onions on the market. Suffice it to say we need to see the sun!” As far as transportation, he said, “Trucks remain expensive and tight, but with flat beds in the current mix we are holding our own.”
Many thanks to Marc Bybee with Eagle Eye Produce in Nyssa, OR for sending along Idaho-E. Oregon 2020 crop photos he took of fields from two of their many area onion growers.
DMC Farms grower Eagle Eye Produce packer:
Mountain Valley Enterprise grower, Eagle Eye Produce packer
Rick Greener with Greener Produce in Ketchum told us that he is shipping onions out of California, Idaho, Oregon and Michigan. “We have finished up with Murata’s and we should be shipping from Harris Ranch until mid or late September,” he said. “We started going with the Northwest and have some really nice reds out of Michigan. Quality is good, and we’ve been making great deliveries. Jumbos and Mediums are moving well and there has been some interest for colossals and supers, but it’s not huge.” Rick noted demand is pretty basic this week. “It’s not gangbusters, but it’s not bad. Everyone knows it’s the week of the 2s, so shippers shouldn’t get too concerned if demand isn’t up there. As far as the market goes, it’s steady. I don’t think shippers should be in a big hurry. Heck, run half days if you have to. We have a lot of time with this new season.” He also mentioned that Greener is shipping exports, saying, “We had some containers going to Panama, and that is encouraging.”
Robert Bell with Western Onion Sales, LLC was kind enough to send us an array of 2020 crop photos for Minkus Family Farms in New Hampton.