Featured image, New Zealand onion harvest, courtesy of Robert Bell. View more and a video at the conclusion of our report.
Columbia Basin, WA/OR:
Jared Gutierrez with Columbia Basin Onions in Hermiston, OR, reported from the road on Feb. 26. “Demand has been good this week,” he said. “All colors and sizes are moving, with yellows leading the pack, which is pretty normal. The market has been decent through February. Going forward we hope that the industry implements management control steps to help the market along. Good management of our supplies is very important to us at CBO.” Jared added that CBO’s onion quality is good. “Like most Northwest shippers, we worked through our early lots with some issues, and we are into our really nice quality stuff.” He added that his recent trip to Washington, D.C., with the National Onion Association group, was very productive. “We had and great group and were able to get quite a bit done,” he said. “We met with many government officials that listened to our concerns and that can advocate for our industry in D.C. I also want to thank Georgia grower, R.T. Stanley and Kathleen Thomas Gaspar with OnionBusiness.com for the work they did in facilitating our meeting with Secretary Sonny Perdue.”
Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing reported from his Walla Walla, WA, office on Feb. 26, telling us that for 2020, week eight for onions feels worse than it is. “Everyone knows that the month of February is flat,” Dan said. “But if you look at the numbers, shipments are up over the 10-year average. It’s just that last year was so great, and some folks might be feeling a little panicky this year because it feels different. But if we all take a deep breath, I think we will see demand pick up.” He continued, “Of course, every operation is different, and they may see things differently, but from our vantage point we feel confident that this February slump will turn around in March.” Dan added, “For our regions, Peru will finish up about mid-March. On our storage stuff, we have a very manageable Northwest supplies with very good quality, which will get us through at least the next two months. We are fortunate that the packers we work with do a really good job, and we are packing very good quality there.” And, Dan said, “We have also started our Mexico program. On our early onions out of Mexico, they are typical for this time of year. They are very clean and don’t have a lot of paper right now, but as we get further into the crop, those onions will have more papery skins.” He concluded that “Mexico may have started a little earlier this, but not by a lot. The way we look at it, it’s been a very typical start for the year for onions, and feel like we’re in good shape moving forward.”
Herb Haun with Haun Packing in Weiser, ID, said on Feb. 26 the week has been somewhat slow. “Demand is off a little. If we had more demand, more people would get done,” he added. Herb attributed the slowdown to the end of the month, noting, “It’s fairly typical for late February.” With a return to normal demand, Haun Packing will finish the season in mid-March, and he said currently the shed is shipping mostly yellows, with “a few reds left.” Herb said it’s primarily jumbos and colossals now, and quality is holding. “Temps are warming,” he noted. He also said that growers will be getting into the fields “possibly this weekend,” and he added, “We will see a lot of acres planted in the next several days, and we should have some early August supplies.” As for the 2019-20 season, Herb said, “It’s been a very different year from planting to harvesting, but what two years are ever the same?”
Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce Sales in Parma, ID, weighed in on Feb. 26 and said, “Headlines and stock market reactions this week show issues on the world stage are creating concern. I would think these concerns present a great case and important reinforcement as to why you should make sure you are buying onions grown in the USA!” He continued, “Keeping our American Farmers financially healthy should be a top priority collectively for all of us to ensure we never get in a position where we are dependent on foreign supplies. Demand for our facilities has been steady and consistent for this time of year. Pressure from multiple fronts and poor marketing has come together the last few weeks, which has led to the decline in market. Too many foreign onions from multiple countries is certainly not helping; select shippers and brokers working to get volume moved never helps when there is not brisk demand; and lowering a market simply makes buyers want to hold off,” Dwayne said. “It is important to remember that one person’s low quotes do not establish the market for the entire region. On that front, it has been frustrating and a little rough, but I do think in a couple weeks it will hopefully straighten out. At these prices it can’t make a ton of sense to bring in a lot more foreign product.” And, he said, “On a positive note, super colossal onions are very tight and still getting a decent return to growers. Supers and colossals will both continue to be tight as we move into long-term storage varieties.” Dwayne said, “At our facilities and from our farms we have set back amazing quality onions with good size for the months of March and April. We plan to service our customers until the end of April here and then transition to California the first of May.” He closed by saying, “The next three weeks for us historically has great movement, so we are optimistic that as temps improve around the country, that will be the case.”
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said on Feb. 26 business had picked up along with volume out of Mexico. All sizes and colors are running, and “More people have started to switch in,” he said of the new crop coming out of Mexico. “And our Mexican volume has picked up.” He said that indications are “the jumbo deal is trying to get better,” and he said, “The season out West is winding down, and Mexico doesn’t have a really big crop. S. Texas doesn’t have a really big crop this year. I think we may see some changes for the better in the next week. It always picks up in March when weather starts getting nicer. It’s renewed optimism in springtime, and that usually involves onions.” Don Ed also said, “As we get into mid-season crop varieties in Mexico and the really early varieties are through, quality improves. Shape is better, sizes are bigger and yields are better.” All in all, he said, “Demand is definitely picking up.”
Bob Sakata with Sakata Farms in Brighton said on Feb. 26 the onions are finished for the year. “We’re all done,” he said, adding that R.T. “will get in the fields in March.” Bob said there will be no changes to the Sakata Farms program for 2020-21.
Texas Rio Grande Valley:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco said on Feb. 26 it’s been cooler in his area the past several days. “The leaves are all out on the trees, but temps could be in the high 30s for a few hours overnight tonight. It’s not supposed to freeze, though.” He said the Rio Grande Valley crop looks good, and he said, “There will be a handful of onions around here next week, with more coming March 5-10.” The Onion House will have its first RGV onions around March 20, starting with yellows and adding whites and reds in short order.
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said white onions out of the Mexican desert are expected to start coming in around April 10 and run through July 4.
View the great video and photo gallery of New Zealand onions, courtesy of Robert Bell with Western Onion Sales.