Featured image: New Mexico crop progress, courtesy of James Johnson with Carzalia Valley Produce
John Vlahandreas with Wada Farms reported in from his Salem, OR office this week. “Wada is still shipping out of Idaho-E. Oregon and Washington, and I am focusing primarily on Washington,” John said. “Demand is good this week, but a lot of it depends on what colors and sizes are located closest to the shed that can be run in this cold weather. The shippers I work with have limited packing schedules with temperatures this cold.” He continued, “Overall, buyers are looking for jumbo yellows and some medium yellows, but you must remember that February is not a big holiday month. I mean, Valentine’s Day doesn’t warrant a ton of 16/3s flying out the door.” And he said, “On the market, it’s not as strong as it has been, but any time you can stay in double digits, it’s not too bad. It will be curious to see just how many Mexican onions are really coming across. I hear there are quite a few. If that’s the case, I hope the guys in the Northwest didn’t hold on to a ton of product. We’ll just have to see how this whole thing plays out. But the quality of shipments has been great, and I haven’t had any issues to speak of at all, so that’s good news. Freight’s good too. It’s been fairly easy to get trucks.”
Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce reported in from his Nyssa, OR, sales office on Feb. 1. “Demand for the last couple of weeks has been slightly off the norm,” Jason said. “It’s not a huge surprise. I have heard that demand for fresh produce, in general, has been off. Buyers are looking mostly for mixers in jumbos. The market is trending downward, which is not good at all for our growers, but it has a lot to do with Mexico beginning to cross, and now they are coming with all colors and sizes. It’s a really unfortunate situation, for sure. The good news is, we have excellent quality, and with the overall demand down on produce, trucks are super easy to secure.”
Steve Baker with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, told us on Feb. 1, demand has slowed somewhat recently. “Demand is a little off from the last few weeks,” he said, adding that it’s “not uncommon for this time of the year.” He said, “Overall demand was not as good this January as it’s been in previous years. It’s strongest for super colossals and jumbos. Whites seem to be the tightest items out of Idaho E. Oregon at this time.” The market, he said, “has come off slightly from the previous two weeks.” Steve noted, “Quality has been very good. Appearance on the onions has been outstanding.” And Steve said, “Trucks have been plentiful this week for our needs.”
Paul Reeping with Riverfront Produce in Payette, ID, told us on Feb. 1 that his company is super busy this week. “We have high demand for colossals and supers, but also for reds in all sizes,” Paul said. “Honestly, this could have something to do with a Super Bowl pull. And what we are seeing in the market is it’s holding steady for quality product.” On transportation, Paul told us, “Trucks are readily available, and we have had very good quality, so we have good news to report this week.”
Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce Sales in Parma, ID, told us on Feb. 1, “Utah is finished for the season, and we are just cleaning up the floor. January is also finished up and thank goodness! The gloom of the January weather seems to lead to depression in thought and markets. He continued, “It’s been slower on the technology side (phones & emails) as is expected, but couple that with customers hearing lower prices, and then you just accelerate the slowdown.” Dwayne said, “Speaking of customers, they have gotten a double win. Prices off on the FOB and freight way off has led to the delivered prices of onions to them coming down tremendously.” However, he said, “In terms of statistics, it really hasn’t been that slow as a nation though, and consumption is still around 400 a day. The foreign onions from Peru and Mexico are adding pressure, no questions, but nothing crazy to this point. The Mexico number for the year is higher than last year at this point only because the number of whites that came in so early.” And, Dwayne said, “Spring is coming, and as more and more sheds finish up for the season, everything should more than fit. I keep hearing buyers tell me fertilizer prices are coming down and contract prices for next year should follow. My response is always the same: from what price? The record that they reached this past summer? They still aren’t even close to what we paid pre-pandemic, and in actuality, chemical prices on many items are actually up another 2 percent. Our fall work for onions is already done and those prices for this next year’s crop were higher than last fall for this year’s crop. That cost is already baked in and higher. Those comments are like saying fuel is down. Well yeah from over $4, but not anywhere near the under $2 it was at before the administration change.” He said, “Labor is our biggest line item in the budget, and that number has done nothing but go up. H-2A labor took another $1 jump Jan. 1, and so did domestic. “Dwayne concluded, “It all follows each other. Trucks are plentiful and lower; onions will get tighter domestically as we move forward. No reason to give away the farm and that is who is absorbing the downturn, the American Growers.”
Doug Bulgrin with Gumz Farms in Endeavor told us on Feb. 1 that Gumz demand has been steady. “Our business has been steady this week, and it really has been all along,” he said. “Where we are located is the right spot with the weather. It’s been good for trucks and the freight advantage too.” Doug continued, “Buyers are looking for medium and jumbo yellows this week, and we have good availability of mediums and jumbos in yellows and reds.” He added, “We had an excellent growing season, so our crop turned out great and we have nice dry onions that we will be shipping into spring.” On transportation, Doug commented, “Availability of trucks has been very good, and they’ve been easier to get lately.”
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, told us on Feb. 1 that he’s moving Tampico onions now. “We’re rolling along with Mexico, but there’s no significant volume yet,” he said. Don Ed added, “We expect volume to pick up next week and then hit volume the third week of February.” Currently, The Onion House is shipping reds and yellows, with whites to start Monday, and he added, “Quality is really nice, and sizing is good as well.”
Mike Davis with Tex-Mex Sales LLC in Weslaco, TX, reported in on Feb. 1. “We are getting off to a good start,” Mike said. “We don’t have a lot of onions crossing right now, but the quality is fantastic — the best I’ve seen in a while. Today we are getting three loads in, averaging four or five loads a day, and there probably won’t be any real volume until the second week in February, somewhere between the 10th and 15th. The buyers are looking for the freight advantage, particularly in the Southeast, and with the bad weather all over the country. If they can get a truck closer to the onions, they will take it.” On the market, Mike said things are looking good. “Of course, growers are always going to want more, but if the Northwest can hold their market up, then we can too,” Mike said. “We all have to work together on this thing.”
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Grower in McAllen, TX, said on Feb. 1 that movement of new crop onions out of Mexico is very good this week. “For the next 30 days, we will see a big transition to almost 100 percent new crop. Mexico has good external and internal quality, and we’re fortunate to have that in all colors and sizes. We have more of the larger sizes, and we’ll see how happens. The market acts like it’s ready.
Robert Bell with Western Onion in Camarillo, CA, received word from Michael Blake with New Zealand Onion Co. earlier this week that provided both an update and photos on New Zealand’s recent torrential rainfall and subsequent flooding, saying, “We received 13 inches of rain since Friday with more to come,” Michael said. “Some fields have washed away some crops – but I’m surprised many beds are still in place given the rainfall. Further rains predicted all week so no chance to get the crop off the ground, and what ramifications this will have on quality is anyone’s guess.” Many thanks to Robert and Michael for the recent photos. Click to enlarge and scroll.
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco told us on Feb. 1 it’s been a cool week in the Rio Grande Valley. “Last week we had warm weather and thought we might come in early, and this week it’s cool, and we’re thinking it might be a bit later,” he laughed. “Today it’s 37 degrees with a light drizzle, but these onions are so young it’s not going to bother them.” The season is expected to start around mid-March.
Mike Davis with Tex-Mex Sales LLC in Weslaco told us on Feb. 1 that his Texas crop looks very good. “Our growing weather has been phenomenal,” Mike said. “We have had a cold snap for a couple of days lately, but we haven’t had lower temps since Christmas, and we expect it to warm up by the end of the week. So we’re in good shape for startup which will be the first part of March when we begin shipping our 1015s.”
Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce in Nyssa, OR, told us Feb. 1 that his company will transition to their Texas program after completing their Northwest deal in April. “We are a 365-day-a-year onion shipper, so we will be moving to Texas after we finish up In Eastern Oregon and Washington in April. Our grower’s crop in Texas is looking great, and I will be traveling down there soon to check out the crop before harvest.” Thanks to Jason for sending recent photos of the crop Eagle Eye will be marketing this spring. Click image to enlarge.
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in McAllen told us on Feb. 1, “We’re cold. The weather forecasters who want to convince us they know what’s going to happen 30 years from now blew the ‘tomorrow’ forecast two days in a row this week. It’s in the 30 now, and that’s 30 degrees colder than what it was supposed to be.” He added, “Everything in Texas is average or better, and I still say we’re going to be a week or two later this year than we were last year in the Rio Grande Valley and Wintergarden.”
James Johnson with Carzalia Valley Produce in Columbus gave us a great update on Jan. 30, saying, “Fall seeded are doing well and dormant for the winter. A few people in New Mexico struggled with the October rains, and some stands are pretty thin. A lot of stuff was planted later than normal because of those rains, but since we’ve had a fairly mild winter, they all seem to be doing well.” James went on to say. “Coldest morning we’ve seen all winter was this morning at 13 degrees.” He added, “Transplants are going in now with our Chihuahua partners. It’s amazing what can be done down there where there is labor!!” Our thanks to James for the great photo as well.