Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing in Walla Walla told us on Dec. 12 that demand remains strong. “Well, all you have to do is look at the numbers, and there is no one in the Northwest complaining about movement,” Dan said. “There are plenty of onions being sold, and it looks like the movement is a little higher than historical averages right now. Now, everyone would like to see better pricing, but demand is certainly not the issue.” He also said quality is very good. “Conditions have been excellent with this season’s hybrids. Quality is good, and we haven’t had any issues. Folks in the Northwest should be giving Mother Nature a big hug. And I do see some room after the end of January for pricing to increase, so we’re optimistic about the season moving forward.”
Jared Gutierrez with Columbia Basin Onion in Hermiston told us on Dec. 12 that business is good heading into Christmas. “Demand this week has been good and steady with the holiday run,” Jared said. “Red onions have been the pull here as of the last couple of weeks, and I would also say there has been good demand for jumbos in all colors as well.” The market, he said, is also steady. “Domestic market demand is good and steady, with export continuing. What we need is some rise in the domestic market, especially in the medium yellows. I believe that will be happening soon,” Jared said. “We have good quality and availability in all colors, sweets and organic right now.” And hitting on transportation, he said, “Transportation hasn’t been too bad this winter, but there still are some challenges that exist.”
Steve Baker with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, told us it’s been a steady week with little change. Demand, Steve said, “has been good for us this week, which has been the case for the last three months.” He said smaller sizes of reds and yellows are in highest demand, and he added, “In saying that, there is good demand in all sizes and colors.” The market is steady, and Baker & Murakami has good availability on everything “except medium yellows and medium reds.” The widespread issue of transportation hasn’t changed much, either. “Trucks are still tight, and you have to work hard to find them,” Steve said. “We have been fortunate to get our loads covered so far this week.”
Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce Sales in Parma, ID, wrote on Dec. 12 that he wasn’t in a good mood, but he complimented the NOA for its recent convention in Hawaii, saying, “The NOA convention was top notch and what a wonderful way to honor Wayne as he moves into retirement. I vote Maui every year!” And Dwayne went on to say, “Then there is reality, and the onion market would need to be way better to be able to do that! Demand continues to crush it, with some positive market reaction in Idaho. Stronger marketers seem to be inching up in price, which is positive, but others seem to be status quo, making it tough to get this market to where it should be.” He continued, “The bright spot for us has been in Utah. We have been able to get $1 up from our low on our jumbos there and continue with brisk movement. All the shippers there must have moved that much because there is no resistance at all and volume keeps trucking on.” Dwayne also said, “The other good news is there is without question a worldwide shortage of onions. As more deals materialize on that front, we should experience positive upward pricing. That would be a good development since our seed companies have let us know our costs of seed is once again moving up. Our farms will have to absorb another 8 to 15 percent increase, depending on color and variety, in our production costs.” And he had more: “Seeing the protests over rising expenses yet stagnant incomes in France has me wondering when our own growers are going to say enough and get involved to make positive adjustments. I guess until we come together in that arena I will throw a rock at myself while yelling, ‘Get the onion price up!’ each morning while I am out feeding. Relax, I am just kidding, no throwing rocks, but I do think on the grower end we are feeling that kind of pressure. There is a lot to be positive about, and this market can only go up. If your return hasn’t moved up this week, it is ok to ask why!? Positive changes can happen – without throwing rocks!” Dwayne closed by saying, “We wish everyone a Merry Christmas, and here is to a much better market in 2019!”
Chris Woo with Owyhee Produce in Nyssa, OR, told us market conditions hadn’t changed much in recent weeks. Pricing continues to be lower than hoped for, he said. Demand is steady, but Chris said on Dec. 12 he hadn’t seen a Christmas push yet. “We should be hearing from buyers sooner rather than later, by the end of the week if not sooner,” he said. “Quality is very good, and we have good supplies. Our supplies of yellows are excellent, and we have good supplies of reds. We have whites for mixers.” Available sizing is predominantly jumbos for all colors, he said. “Medium demand is still good,” Chris added. About transportation, he said, “Trucks are still tight and expensive, and for rail cars, we have to order a week in advance. That’s the new norm.” Getting rail cars has “been going all right,” he said. Looking ahead, Chris said, “We’re hoping for a first-of-the-year price bump.”
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, told us Dec. 12 the Corinne, UT, deal is “rockin’ right along.” He said, “We’re having excellent holiday demand, and we’ve got a good mix of onions.” Transportation, he said, “is a doable challenge, and we’re making timely deliveries.”
Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing reported to us on Dec. 12 from his Walla Walla, WA, sales office, saying, “Our Peru shipments are at their peak right now. We had a very good Thanksgiving, and we expect the same demand for the rest of the holidays. We’ve had very manageable movement all season long, and pricing is increasing a little as well. We expect demand to continue to be strong, which is typical for our Peru crop straight through the push for the Super Bowl. Some folks don’t realize how big the Super Bowl is for onions, but we always have very good movement for the event. After that, we will see a sharp drop off for the Peru program about the end of January. Overall we have had a very smooth season with good orderly marketing.”
Jason Vee with Vee’s Marketing in Superior, WI, wrote on Dec. 12, “Movement is good. It feels like everyone is waiting with bated breath for an upward market change. Or, waiting with pilsnered breath as my old friend, Norm, would say.” Jason continued, “I reserve the right to be entirely incorrect, but this is my best guess how this plays out: Demand increases slightly before the holidays, and then production decreases 20-30 percent for two consecutive weeks over Christmas and New Year’s. That should create enough scarcity for a slight market increase.” He added, “One thing to keep in mind is that January is garbage. So, if shippers get too aggressive pushing this onion market up because of a blip of scarcity, it can backfire with a market correction in the other direction when the reality of January hits.”
California Imperial Valley:
Robert Bell with Western Onion Sales in Camarillo told us Dec. 12 the overwinters are all planted in the Imperial Valley, and he added that acreage is said to be down in that area this year. Robert noted he’ll be attending the World Ag Expo in Tulare Feb. 14-16. Sounds like a good show.
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said the Tampico-area sweets are on track to start around Jan. 25. “They’re growing good,” he said. Cooler weather is slowing them down “just a shade,” Don Ed said.
Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing in Walla Walla, WA, said he expects a slow start out of Mexico. “From what we’ve been told by our growers, the startup will be slow, and we really won’t be able to address volume or quality until we start receiving the product.”
Robert Bell of Western Onion Sales in Camarillo, CA, provided us with an update on New Zealand’s onion crop, which will be harvested in January and February, is looking good and in a very good place as far as finding a home. “They’re pretty excited in New Zealand,” Robert said, adding the shortage in world markets means NZ onions are preselling. “They’re having normal weather this year after a drought last year,” he said.” The onions will be harvested somewhat early and dried by the shed’s air wall to set the skin for the weeks-long boat ride to receivers. The crop is “at least 50 percent reds,” with the balance yellows, Robert said.
Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing reported to us on Dec. 12 from his Walla Walla, WA, office that the Vidalia crop has a ways to grow before it can be assessed. “It’s important to note to readers that despite what recent weather may look like, it’s just way too early to speculate on how the Georgia crop is going to turn out,” Dan said. “Really no one is going to able assess it until we get further down the road. We have to wait and see what happens.”
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