Brenden Kent with Sunset Produce, Inc. in Prosser told us on Feb. 27 that despite the weather, Sunset is filling orders and getting trucks out. “We have had more snow this week, but we are working to stay open and we’ve been able to run and get onions out,” Brenden said. “The extended focus looks like we are going to get a break, and that’s the good thing about our area. Once the weather turns around, it clears up pretty fast.” Brenden said demand has been steady. “Of course, smaller onions are in high demand, and the white market is super strong,” he said. “Everyone across the country is feeling the weather effects right now, but once we get into March, spring weather should help the market. We’re optimistic that we are going to see an increase in pricing for March into April.” He went on to say onion quality remains excellent. “That may be the only good thing about this weather,” Brenden commented. “The onions are keeping really well, and we are seeing nice tight skins and great quality coming out of storage.” He also told us export demand is still decent. “This time of year it is normal for exports to slow down a bit, but actually export demand has been OK.”
Ashley Robertson with Fort Boise Produce in Parma, ID, told us on Feb. 27 the market “seems steady this week, and business is good.” She added, “Everyone is looking for jumbo whites and medium yellows,” and she said Fort Boise has both. All three colors and all sizes are moving steady, she added.
Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce reported from the road this week. On Feb. 27 he told us that demand has been good this week. “Demand has been pretty even across the board on colors and sizes,” he said. “Medium yellows are very tight, but everything is moving pretty well. We have had a few transportation delays, but overall we are getting the trucks and getting onions out. The market is steady, but we really think it’s going to start moving up with the impact of weather issues north of us. Frankly, I am surprised it hasn’t started already. Still, we do expect an increase coming soon.” Jason said that Eagle Eye’s California operation is “coming along” He said, “California is looking good, and we expect a very smooth transition from Idaho-Oregon to California toward the end of April.”
Chris Woo with Owyhee Produce in Parma, ID, told us Feb. 27 the Treasure Valley snow is melting, and that’s a good thing. About onions, he said demand this week has been “fair,” and pricing is “ho-hum.” He said, “The Northwest has been socked in with snow and drifting snow, but I don’t see any extra business coming our way. I think there’s enough onions here to keep pressure on the pipeline. Most of the sheds here are done with whites for the year, and that pricing has been decent. There are still adequate supplies of yellows and reds to go into April.” Chris said Owyhee’s strategy is to run to the end of April. He said he’s heard three IEO sheds could be done by March 10-17, and as for new crop field work, he said, “We’re weeks away. Before the recent storms, some guys went out and did some tractor work. Then we got rain and snow.” He expects it to be mid- to late March before planting gets started.
John Harris with Paradigm Fresh in Fort Morgan weighed in on Feb. 25 and updated on Feb. 27. On Monday John reported demand was a bit sluggish, saying, “I think in the next days or week we will start to see this slow demand start to pick up. Whites continue to remain very short in the Northwest, and it looks like Mexico will provide no relief as they are crossing very little. Medium yellows also remain a pretty sparse item, and the price continues to become a bit higher and certainly more stable. There are plenty of jumbo reds and jumbo yellows floating around.” Midway through the week, he added, “White supplies continue to remain extremely tight, [and] the Northwest seems to have run completely out of load volume of whites at this point.” John went on to say medium yellows are scarce, and he noted, “There seems to be deals on jumbo reds and jumbo yellows – the market is getting a bit cloudy on those items at the moment.” Colorado was having good weather, he added.
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said on Feb. 27 volume out of Mexico was steady and “should start to pick up more next week.” And he said for OH, “The Mexican crop is one-third and maybe 40 percent shipped.” Don Ed said some of his counterparts were behind that volume, and others ahead. “Overall Mexico has gone through quite a few onions,” he said. About market conditions, Don Ed said, “The market feels like it’s in pretty good shape. Whites are outstanding, up this week.”
Jason Vee with Vee’s Marketing in Superior, WI, told us Feb. 27, “The Columbia Basin got hit with more snow this week, causing problems because of road closures and poor road conditions. We can’t pack and load trucks if guys can’t get to work.” But, he added, “There is no sense in getting mad about it. We are just doing the best we can to work around it and keep everyone safe.”
Jason continued, “Open market sales on white onions are mostly finished in the Northwest. I’ve reached out to sheds this week I don’t deal with as often trying to cover a few white onion orders. I get the same response from all of them: They are holding the few whites they have back to cover retail contracts. Besides traceability, I’d say contracting is the strongest trend I have seen in the last 10 years. I contract more than I used to, but I’m still more open market than I am contract business” He added, “It works out for me, especially when the big retailers switch districts. Someone still has to sell the onions they leave behind. There is value in that trading.”
Switching gears, Jason said, “Let’s talk about new crop. What the heck is going on with new crop Mexican onions? I heard of shippers that should have sold a hundred loads by this time in years past haven’t sold a single load. It’s strange. Except for whites and some carton sweets, most onions are staying in Mexico.” And that, he said is “to the benefit of storage shippers to maintain markets and movement. But storage shippers should also be wary of moving this market very much. I think another two dollars up on yellows in the Northwest will open the flood gates on Mexican onions crossing into Texas. Then it’s a battle of overlapping districts.”
Texas Rio Grande Valley:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco said on Feb. 27 the Rio Grande Valley crop is putting on good tops, and he said recent cooler weather is expected to be pushed out by a warming trend next week. “We’re still in the slot for the last week of March or the first week of April,” he said of the 1015s kick-off.
Colorado Western Slope:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said his Colorado Western Slope growers have been rejoicing over this winter’s abundant snowpack. “They’re talking about maybe getting into the fields a little bit in late March or early April,” Don Ed said.
Ashley Robertson with Fort Boise Produce in Parma, ID, told us Feb. 27 the farmers “are close to getting into the fields.” Ashely said, “We’re looking at least two weeks because we’re still covered with snow right now. We definitely got the moisture, and the growers are very happy about that.”
Grant Kitamura with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, said on Feb. 27 recent precip has been welcomed. “With the weather we’ve been having, I think we’ll have good water this year.” Grant said while it’s too wet to get into the fields right now, “The normal window is early March to mid-April, and if we plant the third week of March, those are early onions.” He said Baker & Murakami growers will stay with the same color mix program as last year.
Featured image: bulk onions displayed in Stanton, CA Walmart Neighborhood Market