California San Joaquin Valley/Nevada:
Jessica Peri with Peri & Sons in Yerington, NV, told us Aug. 29 Peri & Sons will finish packing and shipping from its Firebaugh, CA, facility next week. She said, “We fired up one packing shed in Nevada on Aug. 20, and next week we will have both packing sheds running.” Jessica added, “We are still harvesting, and the crop has good size and good quality so far.” She said demand is good for whites and sweets.
Rick Minkus with Minkus Family Farms in New Hampton, NY, reported on Aug. 29, “We’re hot here today!” Rick is bringing in onions from Oregon and Washington but has been shipping a few of Minkus Family Farms’ transplants. The transplants were slowed on Aug. 29 due to the heat, and Rick told us, “We can’t lift those onions and lay them on the black dirt. But it’s supposed to cool off, so we will be back in there as soon as it does.” He added, “We’re bringing in Oregon and Washington onions, and so far this week demand has been steady. We aren’t slammed, and we aren’t slow.” Rick said jumbo yellows are in higher demand, but the red market has declined. “We expect the demand to get much stronger in a couple of weeks. We are just waiting for the kids to get back into school and people to start buying onions instead of clothes.”
Michael J. Locati with Pacific Agra Farms in Walla Walla told us that season wrapped up last week, and he said, “We’re getting ready to plant again.” The year brought “tremendous yields,” he said, adding, “We have been pretty fortunate.” Michael said labor was adequate on both farm and in the shed. And he said the program for 2019 will be much the same as it was this season.
John Vlahandreas with Wada Farms in Idaho Falls, ID, reported from his Salem, OR, office on Aug. 29, “I am shipping a lot out of Washington and a little out of Idaho right now. Demand has been very steady this week – not huge, but definitely steady. The market is steady as well. Pricing on reds and yellows is decent, so they aren’t sticking around. There are fewer whites out there, so the money is really good on those.” John said quality has been nice. “It seems as though this early stuff is better quality for this time of year than normal. The onions have good paper and are holding up well. We haven’t had any issues with these early shipments.” He mentioned the recent fires might have an impact on curing. “The cooler weather and the overcast skies with fires may have an impact on storage onion curing, but we’ll just have to wait and see.” And John added that the truck situation is “tight but OK for now.”
Herb Haun with Haun Packing in Weiser, ID, told us Aug. 28 that his operation is shipping all sizes and colors now, heavy to jumbos with “adequate colossals and tight on mediums.” The season kicked off about ten days early this year, and Herb said he expects to ship through mid-March, “pretty much a normal shipping season.” Demand is good, with “lots of repeat business,” and he said transportation has been adequate thus far.
Grant Kitamura with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, said on Aug. 29 the facility is still shipping early onions and will start shipping storage mid-September. “It’s all about a week to 10 days early,” Grant said. “The crop was planted early, and the growing season ended early.” He noted that despite a month of high temps in the Treasure Valley late in the growing season, “We’re seeing good quality come in. There were no major issues with hail or rain, and sizing is mostly jumbos, colossals and supers. In our early varieties, we have about 5-7 percent mediums, and there will be everything in our storage. ”
Dan Phillips with Central Produce Distributors in Payette, ID, reports that demand this week is “tremendous.” He said, “We are seeing great demand for all colors and sizes, and we are pleased that despite more shippers coming on, the market has stayed very steady and that’s a positive sign.” Dan added, “So far it looks like we are off to a really good start for the season.” He said quality continues to get better. “Every day we see the quality increasing. We are getting cooler weather now, so when we top the onions, we are able to leave them in the field longer, and Mother Nature takes over to help cure them.” When asked about transportation, Dan said, “I could go into a 90-minute vent about transportation, but let’s just say it’s still tough.”
Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce Sales in Parma, ID, said on Aug. 29, “All things considered, we are doing great, and onions are flying off the floor. Grower returns are steady, but you won’t be buying any John Deeres at these prices.” Dwayne continued, “We have had record business for our second week of packing, so demand has been fantastic. We are grateful for such loyal customers who clearly prefer IEO Onions!” He said Champion is “working each year to lengthen our season on both ends to meet that request from our customers. Labor is super tight, and our costs per hour have now set a new record as well.” And, he said, “Note to Congress: Supply and demand move up wages, just like onion prices, unlike regulations! Quality and weather look great, so we are very optimistic we will have a great season of shipping that will extend to the end of April. We do hope for our family farms and growers that we can see some strength in the yellow market as we transition into our storage onions, but as a very wise and respected onion grower reminds me often, ‘You are only as strong as your weakest link!’” Dwayne said he was asked by a grower this week, “With all this demand, why haven’t we seen strength in the prices?” He responded, “I pulled out my favorite response, ‘I don’t know, because I don’t know!’ All kidding aside, in a real response I think it is mostly that we need to keep demand good and clean up these green topped onions, and demand has been fantastic, and they are almost gone.” Dwayne concluded, “We hope everyone has a great Labor Day Weekend. Stay safe, and we look forward to a fantastic start to our storage season. If you see any people out with signs on the side of the street asking for financial help, send them on down to any of our three fine establishments, and we can help them out real quick – overtime even the next couple months!”
Colorado Western Slope:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said his Colorado growers started clipping Aug. 29 and 30, and shipping is expected to start the first week of September. “The growers are telling me it looks really good,” Don Ed said of the Colorado crop.
Rick Greener with Greener Produce in Ketchum, ID, told us that demand this week is steady. “I thought that demand might be stronger this week because of the holiday, but it’s still good,” he said. “We are moving onions out of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, and the quality has been hit and miss. We have had some great deliveries, but it appears that some of the early stuff has suffered a little stress from the heat. Overall we’ve been happy. I will say that it will be nice to get into the storage varieties that have better skins and hold up a little better.” And he added, “Boy, white onions are doing great right now.” Rick said the market is steady. “You know, the market is good considering what it has been in the past when more shippers get going. In past years, I’ve seen it where pricing dips at this time of year, and you just aren’t seeing that. So all things considered, the market is steady and at a good level.” When asked about transportation, Rick laughed, “All I can say is, use ‘em if you got ‘em.”
Ken Stewart with Asumendi Produce in Wilder, ID, said on Aug. 29 the growing season has been good overall, and harvest will start Sept. 24. “It’s going well,” Ken said. “We’re a later shed and not packing right now.” He added, “The crop is doing well, and even though there was some excessive heat, everything looks good.”
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said the Corinne, UT, crop is on track for undercutting in September. The onions will go into storage for an October start to shipping. “Everything is looking real good there,” Don Ed said on Aug. 29.
Rick Minkus with Minkus Family Farms in New Hampton told us Aug. 29 the New York crop looks good. “We had a pretty wet August, but the onions are in good shape right now. We are a couple of weeks behind, but the onions are still doing well, and we’re optimistic. Of course, if you’re a farmer, you have to be optimistic, or you wouldn’t stay in the business.” With a gambling reference, Rick laughed, “Right now we’re puttin’ it all out on ‘black’ and hoping it turns into green.”