Featured image: S. Texas onion crop, courtesy of David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in McAllen, TX
Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing reported from his sales office in Walla Walla this week. “Things are going pretty well for us,” he said. “With all that’s going on in the world, all things considered, we really can’t complain. Recent stats say that for the last three weeks overall onion movement has been on a steady incline. For Keystone, we have been shipping good quality for our sweets and hybrids. Mayan Sweets are selling well and at good prices. We expect to be selling fresh volumes of those into February, and we still have some Northwest sweets that we will ship until about the middle of February.” He continued, “Keystone’s Northwest hybrids are also moving well. We continue to see some states changing their eating habits back to more in-home dining again with more restaurant dining restrictions, but we probably won’t see the mad rush in retail as we saw in early spring and summer. However, for the foreseeable future, people will probably continue to eat at home, and being primarily a retail supplier, we aren’t in bad shape. So again, we don’t have a whole lot to complain about.”
Jared Gutierrez with Columbia Basin Onion in Hermiston, OR, told us on Dec. 15, “Demand has been decent this week! The market has definitely had some surges of hot and cold, but fortunately things keep moving forward.” He added, “The crop on hand report numbers look good, considering the pandemic. With some luck that trend will continue to get better.” And, Jared said, “We are moving all colors and organic right now, and the quality is good. On transportation, freight remains a little tough, but we load them as we get them. Hopefully we see that loosen up a bit here soon. In all we want to wish everyone ‘Happy Holidays,’ and cross your fingers for a bright new 2021!”
Steve Baker with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, told us on Dec. 16, “Demand has been fairly decent and even across the board on all sizes. Whites onions have been extremely tight this week. I expect whites to be fairly tight the rest of the season out of Idaho/Oregon.” Steve went on to say, “For the most part the market is steady. But there seems to be pressure by a few shippers to lower the jumbo yellow market from the previous two weeks. I think history has proven that you will not sell anymore onions in the long run at $5 fob vs $7 fob. The difference is you are in the red at $5-$5.50 fob vs breakeven or slightly in the black at $6.50- $7. The math is very simple!” Quality, he said, has been very good, and he said, “Transportation has been adequate for our needs this week.”
Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce Sales in Parma, ID, weighed in on Dec. 16. “There is always a big looming question in my mind in terms of market: Are we in a true supply and demand scenario or a psychological/perceived supply and demand scenario? One thing is apparent in our business, and that is prices are not as easily established as we learn in our economics classes,” he said. Dwayne continued, “That being said, mid-season is a great time for some evaluation and some mind/thinking adjustments or course corrections. As you study this market in terms of statistics related to supply and demand, things look VERY positive. In terms of supply, national statistics are showing a very marketable crop across the nation with inventories as low as we have seen in many years. In terms of demand, movement continues to be brisk from the USDA daily shipments data with our industry averaging shipments at over 400 loads a day. So, consumption is spot on. In year-to-date comparison figures we are 2,284 loads ahead of last year in our region.” He added, “Those items coupled together would normally give us a big win in terms of price, but here we sit with negative, yes negative, returns to the growers in relation to their investment in the growing, storage, and packing of the crop.” And, he continued, “In terms of psychology, there is no question that regardless of what the numbers demonstrate, it does ‘feel’ slow. People aren’t shopping for product. That mostly happens when prices are moving up, and it creates a feeling of extra demand as customers want to get orders in before prices continue to move up. Phones aren’t ringing with extra calls or texts, and emails aren’t overflowing our inboxes. When you stop and evaluate it all, here we sit with an excellent supply and demand scenario and yet a terrible market.” Dwayne said, “We need to be honest as an industry – $5.50 to $6 a bag is not a good market, at least not to the farms! In terms of statistical data and what our summer friends demonstrate year in and year out, there is no reason for us to be at these levels, except we take the orders at these prices. And we all do it to maintain our business, so I am not pointing any fingers.” He closed by saying, “My conclusion is this: The numbers are on our side in terms of true supply and demand, so I am looking forward to a 2021 with positive returns to our farms and growers! The vaccine is being distributed and administered, and things will get better and start to open back up if we are truly following the science. Additionally, rumors are rampant that another round of the Box Food Program is coming. Just remember what that did for our summer friends’ market! All that being said, it doesn’t appear to me that there is any reason to have a dark winter, at least in the onion business! Here is to a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. The numbers are on our side, and we can adjust our thinking or psychology!!”
We caught up with our friend Rick Greener with Greener Produce in Ketchum on his sales desk on the morning of Dec. 16 before he headed up to his hometown Sun Valley ski hill. “Onion demand is decent this week,” Rick said. “We are selling out of Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Utah, and the quality has been very good.” He said there isn’t much foodservice business. “Honestly, foodservice is dead! These new lockdowns are helping either. There is more and more talk that some operators are just not going to be able to get back up and running. So retail is where it’s at.” Rick continued, “Jumbos and smaller are moving pretty well, and anything larger is tougher to move. Consequently, there are some deals here and there on colossal and supers. The market for jumbos and smaller is steady.” Rick said transportation is better this week. “We are trying to get as many trucks loaded as we can this week,” he said. “Rates are better, and trucks are plentiful. And we all know what’s going to happen next week. It’s always a little rougher the week of Christmas and New Year’s.” He added, “I guess overall we can’t complain, but we are so over 2020. We are ready to put this year behind us. We want to wish everyone a happy holiday and an even better 2021!”
Colorado Western Slope-Utah:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said on Dec. 16 that overall things are going well this week. “Weather is cold, and demand is only fair,” he said. “It should pick up next week as the weather moderates.”
Colorado Western Slope:
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in McAllen, TX, said on Dec. 16 his Western Slope deal is done for the season. “We have a couple of loads to ship, but we’re basically finished,” David said. “We had a better-than-expected year, based on all the things that are going on.”
Texas Rio Grande Valley/Tampico, Mexico:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, told us on Dec. 16, “Texas and Mexico stands look good. There is slower growth now due to cooler temperatures as per normal.” Thanks to Don Ed for sending a recent photo of the Onion House Texas crop progress.
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in McAllen, TX, said on Dec. 16 his Texas onions are doing well. “I looked at a couple of thousand acres, and in general the stands are very good, and cooler weather is slowing things down.” He said the onions are expected to start shipping March 20-25, as they normally do. “The Tampico crop is on time or early, and the stands are as good as they’ve been in a while. We will be harvest in the second half of January,” David said, adding all three colors should be available at the start. Thanks to David for sending photos of his growers Texas onion crop progress.