Featured image: Texas Rio Grande Onion field, courtesy of David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers
Matt Murphy with L&M Cos. in Raleigh, NC, told us on Feb. 10 that demand for reds and whites seems to be doing better than yellows this week. “Demand is pretty much status quo on yellows this week,” he said. “The USDA Food Box program is keeping the mediums going, and you’d think that around the middle of February demand would start picking up some, but it’s still a little on the slow side. Of course, it’s pandemic-driven for larger yellows, but overall it’s slow because of the weather, too. Consumers don’t make a lot of trips to the store or go out a lot when there are storms and freezing weather.” Matt applauded the marketing efforts of Northwest salespeople. “One thing I will I say is that you really have to hand it to the folks in Idaho-Oregon and Washington. They have done a great job of holding up the market. With better freight costs and the excellent quality we have coming out of our Washington operation, we are in a good position to move more onions for sure.” Matt added that he and Derek Ennis will be traveling to Warden soon. “Derek and I will be headed to Warden to take a look at the onions we have left for the season, and we’ll try to get you guys some updated photos. The onions really have been excellent this year!”
Chris Woo with Owyhee Produce in Nyssa, OR, and Parma, ID, told us on Feb. 10, “We still have adequate volume on all three colors and steady pricing for our fine storage crop.” And, he noted, the area “as a whole is offering key pricing at a very promotable level.” Chris also said he’d not heard of onions being planted in the Treasure Valley yet, noting, “The ground is a little wet, and weather still is on the chilly side. One year we had onions go in on Valentine’s Day.”
Steve Baker with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, said on Feb. 10, “Demand has been fair this week but as busy as we have been the past few weeks. The winter storms in the East have contributed to the slower demand.” He added that demand “has been even across the board on all sizes, and the market has been fairly steady for the most part this week.” Quality has been very good, Steve said. And about trucks, he noted, “Transportation has not been an issue this week. We are getting the trucks that we need.”
Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce Sales in Parma, ID, told us on Feb. 10, “It’s been a quiet week in terms of demand, no question, but price certainly isn’t the issue. Customers just don’t need product at the moment at any price.” He went on to say, “That being the case, lower prices aren’t going to help – so don’t panic. Take a few days off or leave the office by noon!” Dwayne said, “The great news of the day is we are hearing Mexico’s president is looking to reopen the country March 1. That would mean schools and restaurants could be back open, and they should have some demand for their own onions.” Looking at the pandemic and its effects, Dwayne said, “COVID numbers in this country are trending the right way, and March and April should be very good if governors of large blue states will open up.” He also said, “We finished production for the year in Utah this week. That leaves us with just our Idaho plants to finish off the season.” And, he concluded, “Quality looks excellent as we move to the final few months of our season. In terms of planting next year’s crop, we aren’t in a hurry but normally start the first part of March, and I would anticipate, weather permitting, that will be the case.”
John Harris with Paradigm Produce in Fort Morgan said on Feb. 10 that the week started off briskly. “Monday was a busy day for us,” he said. “Lots of post-Superbowl sales, which was unusual. I think we as the Northeast is digging out a bit, we got some postponed business there. It pretty well stopped after Monday in our office with very typical slow Tuesday and Wednesday.” John noted, “New crop seems to be full swing, which is just adding to the pressure.”
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said on Feb. 10 his volume was picking up out of Mexico. “It’s starting to pick up. Business this week is fair, and we’ll finish running Utah today or tomorrow and clean up the floor Monday. As we finish that deal, here comes good volume out of Mexico.” He continued, “We have good whites and yellows right now, and the reds will start Monday. And we’re ready for them.” About the pace, Don Ed said Monday and Tuesday were busy, and on Wednesday activity slowed. “The first two days this week felt good. But it’s a typical February,” he noted. “Hopefully March will end the February doldrums.”
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission, TX, said it’s his busiest time of the year now. “The harvest in Mexico goes on,” he said. “Pretty much all of northern Tampico is going, and the southern part is looking at starting towards the end of the month. By that time the northern guys should be more than halfway done.” David provided photos of the packing facility, saying the consumer pack capabilities have been nearly doubled in the past year. Many thanks to David for the photos he sent to accompany his report this week.
Texas Rio Grande Valley:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco brought us up to date on the Rio Grande Valley crop on Feb. 10, saying, “The crop looks good, but we could get cold weather this weekend. We’re watching the onions. Right now, they’re about two weeks ahead of where they were this time last year, and we have cold weather in the forecast. Normally we get our coldest weather between Christmas and New Year, and usually by early February we are getting new leaves on the trees.” Saying the weather had been warmer than normal when temperatures generally lower, Don Ed noted the onions had started to grow. Now, he said, a late cold front is predicted, and with the possibility of the cold slowing the onions down again and then warm weather coming on, he said, “We have possible conditions for bolting. We just hope that doesn’t happen.”
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission said on Feb. 10 that the Rio Grande Valley should start shipping around March 15 – “but we have to wait and see what happens with the cold snap that’s predicted for this coming Sunday night and Monday.” The weather forecasts are hedging their bets on cold temps, with some saying high 20s and some low 40s. “It takes a lot of cold air to get this far south,” he said of the front moving in that direction. “We’ll wait and see what happens. There isn’t anything we can do about it, so we’re crossing our fingers. Everybody’s fields look really good right now.” Many thanks to David for the photos he sent to accompany his report this week.