Featured image: Screenshot image of a video clip (see video below) of Tampico, Mexico onion packing, courtesy of Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing
Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing in Walla Walla told us on Feb. 24 that demand is typical for late February. “Onions are moving at a normal pace,” he said. “Nothing too spectacular, but then again there is not much to complain about. Our quality is holding up well, and that’s good. The Food Box Program has been very good for holding pricing up, and though we’re not sure that it will be renewed, it has been good for the onion market to date. Looking ahead, we’re seeing signs of restaurants reopening and the effects of COVID easing up, so that’s all good for onions.”
Steve Baker with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, told us on Feb. 24 demand is good this week. He said, “Business seems to have picked up from earlier in the week, and demand is even across the board for us on all sizes and colors.” Steve continued, “The market is on the rise from last week’s prices. There is some uncertainty on how much damage was done to the Texas crop. I’m sure most of us have seen the same picture of freeze damage being passed around. Some of these pictures show freeze four to six layers deep on their early onions. We should know within the next 10 days the extent of seeders showing up on onions that are scheduled to be harvested on the back half of the Texas crop.” He also said that quality of storage onions being shipped from his facility is “very good at this time,” and he noted about trucks and freight rates, “Transportation the first part of the week was extremely tight. There do seem to be more trucks available as the week progresses. Freight rates are still high, and I don’t see that changing drastically.”
Chris Woo with Owyhee Produce in Nyssa, OR, and Parma, ID, said on Feb. 24, “Trucks are very tight, and freight rates are high. Inquiring and demand is there, but we just don’t have enough equipment to haul it.” He continued, “We still have snow on the ground and have a good snowpack for the upcoming onion planting for the new season, but nothing has been planted yet.”
John Harris with Paradigm Fresh in Fort Morgan included the following information in his Feb. 24 newsletter: “What an interesting 10-day stretch we have seen. Some of you know this, some of you don’t, but I’m a nerd for the numbers. I go a lot on feel-of-the-market based on sales and customers attitudes towards pricing, but in times like we are in, it takes some hard facts as well. Here’s where the feels and the numbers don’t totally add up. I’d say for most of us, it feels generally sluggish at the moment. No surprise for end of February/beginning of March. What the average daily shipments are telling us is that it is anything but sluggish. We are averaging 458 truck loads per day on movement not counting the weekend. When you take into consideration that we have had all sorts of weather events in that time period that have really made trucking and receiving hard in many areas a huge challenge, I’ll go as far to say, those numbers are astonishing.” John also said, “There is lots of contracting and market speculation going on at the moment in our industry. Nothing is a sure bet in our industry, but all signs point towards a big market in April and May. June and July are too far out to predict, but with momentum that market usually does well also.”
Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing in Walla Walla, WA, reported on Feb. 24 that Keystone’s Peru deal will wrap up in the next couple of weeks. “We’ve had a great season with our Mayan Sweets,” he said. “It’s going to be a smooth transition to our sweets from the Southwest.”
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, told us on Feb. 24, “We lost four or five days because of the recent weather, but there was no damage to the Mexico crop.” He said he’s shipping whites and yellows currently, with reds due to join the line-up next week. “We have plenty of whites and yellows, and quality is good,” Don Ed said, adding that prices are higher than pre-winter storm in Texas.
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission, TX, said on Feb. 24, “Tampico rolls along well. We’re now about 60 percent done, and demand is very strong. The markets are going up.” Southwest Onion Growers has all three colors, he said.
Tampico, Mexico and South Texas:
Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing in Walla Walla, WA, reported on Feb. 24 that Keystone’s Tampico program is going well. “We’ve been selling sweets and yellows, and the quality has been excellent,” he said. “We will be added reds and whites next week. Our grower has a very nice crop, and being further south the crop there hasn’t had any weather damage.” Regarding South Texas, Dan said it’s too early to speculate on the damage from the recent freeze. “It would be wrong to say that the Texas crop hasn’t been affected by the freeze,” Dan said. “But it would be equally wrong to say just how much. We don’t know. Sure, there will be some loss, and there has been some delay because there had already been some shipments, and the freeze caused packing and logistic delays, but we might not know how that all plays out until April. We would be getting way ahead of ourselves to start guessing on Texas before we get there.” He added, “Of course, onions don’t really recognize borders, and it looks like we could start shipping onions closer to the border in the next week.” Dan sent OnionBusiness a Tampico packing video taken a couple of weeks ago.
Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing in Walla Walla, WA, told us on Feb. 24 that Georgia has been wet recently. “Our Georgia growers have received some rain recently,” he said. “We don’t anticipate this is going to have much impact on the crop other than there may have some delay to the start date there. We’ll just have to see how things go.”
Texas Rio Grande Valley:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco said on Feb. 24, “Texas lost somewhere around 25 and 40 percent of the crop. The 25 percent are onions that were going to run within two weeks.” The other 15 to maybe 20 percent, he said, “could be worse or could be not that bad.” Noting that it’s a “wait and see” period for damage assessment, Don Ed said some of the younger onions could come through. But, he added, “Without a doubt, Texas took a hit. We’re hoping for the best.” He said the next couple of weeks will provide some answers.
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission said on Feb. 24 that the Texas deal is “still in the air.” He noted, “We don’t know, and we don’t know when we’re going to know about it. I’m in the field all day today, cutting onions and looking at leaves. I see some varieties’ leaf structure that looks good. Some onions are still dormant.” He added that predicting the outcome is difficult because “we’ve never seen this before.” And, David said, “By this coming weekend, if we get out to the field, we’re hoping to see the onions are getting shoulders. Now it’s a matter of bolt – will there be a difference between varieties, between colors? We can only answer one question at a time.”
Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing in Walla Walla, WA, told us on Feb. 24 that the crop received some recent snow. “Well, if we were going to receive some winter weather, now was a good time for it,” he said. “We had three or four days there when the snow fell at a pretty good rate. At one point we had about 12 inches on the ground. The good news is the temperatures never dropped dramatically. Plus, the plants at this point are mature enough that it didn’t have any effect. The snow also burned off quickly. And our overwinter transplants aren’t scheduled to go in the ground for another two weeks, so we’re in good shape up here.”
California Imperial Valley:
Mike Smythe with West Valley Packers in El Centro told us on Feb. 24, “This off season WVP focused on more automation at the shed and onion varieties that we can machine harvest. Labor in the Imperial Valley has been tight during our vegetable season and could continue into onion season.” He continued, “We added an automated palletizer, more bagging machines, and we added another consumer bagging machine. We added acreage to our organic program, flat sweet yellows and reds.” Mike added, “Crop is on time for a start date of late April and we will ship out of El Centro through mid-June with intermediate onions.”