Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing in Walla Walla, WA, offered some market insight on hybrids out of the Northwest this week. “What we have seen is very good demand through January,” Dan said. “Pricing leveled up, and movement was good as well. The world onion situation basically meant that we had the market to ourselves for the most part, and that definitely bolstered movement.” He continued, “Now that more onions regions are getting into the game, we are going to see more competition. But when it comes to Mexico, you know those growers are going to do what makes sense for them to make the most money with the least amount of risk. If there is an opportunity to sell domestically to achieve those goals, they are going to do it.” Dan added, “I also want to say that it is difficult to get a handle on what is expected to cross from Mexico, but we do know that they are a little late, and there is a possibility that plantings were down. How many, we just don’t know or wouldn’t even speculate, but the global trends and what we experienced in January tell us that it looks like there is an opportunity to continue with a good market with manageable supplies that will carry us through the season.”
Sweet Onion Overview:
Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing in Walla Walla, WA, reported on the company’s sweet program on Feb. 6, saying, “Sweet onions out of Peru have started winding down, and we expect a smooth transition to Mexico and Texas sweets in March.” He continued, “Mexico is a little late, but we aren’t talking months now, just weeks.” And, he said, “The onions out of those regions should carry us through until we can move to Vidalia. It’s far too early to speculate on the Vidalia crop, but we don’t foresee Georgia getting started early.”
Steve Baker with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, told us Feb. 6 that demand this week is “just fair so far.” Steve said, “We are definitely not as busy as we were a few weeks ago.” He added, “With record shipments in January and the Polar Vortex disrupting business last week, this has kept demand down for the last seven to10 days.” Steve noted that demand on medium yellows “is still very strong,” adding, “Apparently others must be tight on them also. I’m getting calls from customers we normally don’t do business with.” The market, he said, has “has settled back slightly from the peak pricing we saw two weeks ago.” And he said Baker & Murakami has “good availability on everything except medium yellows, and quality continues to be excellent.” Steve commented that there “seems to be adequate transportation available for our needs.”
Ryan Stewart with Fort Boise Produce in Parma, ID, said the market this week remains steady, with demand quiet. “We have a normal slowdown this time of year,” Ryan said, noting the Polar Vortex that walloped the Midwest and Great Lakes States last week also “shut things down a little bit.” But, he said, “We’re optimistic that things will pick back up.” As far as demand, whites and medium yellows lead the pack. “People are tight on whites, and all season we’ve seen good demand on medium yellows.” Pricing is holding for the most part, he added. “We really are hopeful the market will keep going in a positive direction and prices will continue going higher the rest of the season.”
Herb Haun with Haun Packing in Weiser, ID, said the market this week has been “maybe a little slow, but demand is adequate for what we need to do.” And, Herb added, “It’s normally slower this time of year anyway.” He said the Polar Vortex might have had some effect on movement last week, but he noted, “We are still moving product, and demand has been good across the board for colors and sizes, including reds and whites. We’re pretty much through with our whites and have enough reds for mixers.” Herb said field prep for the new crop will likely get started in mid-March when the ground has dried out.
Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce Sales in Parma, ID, stopped to catch his breath on Feb. 6 and told us, “It has been a crazy exciting week with little sleep and hard to keep up – in the lambing barn anyway!!!! One-hundred-ten lambs in two weeks keeps things interesting!” He went on to say, “In the onion world things are very steady with prices and movement. We love how this crop looks, and our customers have been very happy. We still have some absolutely beautiful whites that we are offering just in mixer quantities.” Looking at YTD movement, he continued, “From our internal historical demand data, the last week of January and first week of February are a little slower in movement, and then the following three weeks we pick up steam again. History has repeated itself so far, and we don’t have any reason to think that won’t be the case this for demand picking up the next few weeks.” Dwayne said, “Another increase in demand could help boost this price again as more areas finish up and even some of our local sheds will be winding down in the next few weeks. Lots of potential and positive vibes as we look forward. The biggest of those is the amazing quality that is being shipped from most of the Treasure Valley.”
Idaho-Eastern Oregon Exports to Mexico:
Eddie Rodriguez with Partners Produce in Payette, ID, told us on Feb. 6 that Partners has moved quite a few loads to Mexico since Thanksgiving. “The increase of our onions to Mexico all started after Thanksgiving,” Eddie said. “Up until last week we were moving between 40 and 50 loads per week and dealing with numerous Mexican buyers. I have been routinely checking in with other area sheds, and I know that there are more shippers moving product to Mexico as well. The thing is, it’s hard to see the reported movement to Mexico if phytos are being done by customers at the border. For us, we have our customers do the phytos and take care of the crossing. It’s just an easier way to do it, and it takes less time. I am assuming that would be the case for most shippers exporting to Mexico.” He said the extra Mexican export business in January contributed to overall sales. “That business in January definitely helped us out. Now that the buyers have more domestic availability out of Tampico, it makes sense that we’ll see that export business drop off, and it’s likely the Mexican growers will take care of that domestic market. If the U.S. market stays so strong on whites, Mexican growers could take advantage of it and bring more across, but what my contacts are telling me is that Mexican plantings were down. All in all, I think with our manageable supplies and the market holding, we have a very good chance of a strong finish for the season.”
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said the Corrine, UT, onion deal was cleaning up on Feb. 6. “We are shipping our last loads today,” he said.
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, told us on Feb. 6 the mostly sweet onions coming in from Mexico recently have been very good quality, but he noted, “This week the Mexican market was back above the American market,” and loads had slowed. “By next week we should be in steady supplies and will have some whites,” he said.
Michelle Gurda with A. Gurda Produce in Pine Island told us Feb. 6 that demand is steady. “The market is really tight on reds and jumbo whites,” she said. “They are hard to come by, and the West ended up not having as many as they thought they would have. The same thing is true with New York reds. There aren’t as many as originally anticipated. This has created a jump in the market in the last several weeks, by a least a couple of dollars or more. The challenge is explaining to customers that there aren’t as many, and they are going to have to pay more for the product.” Michelle said quality has been good, adding, “Given the wet weather we had, we have really been surprised at how well the onions turned out. While there have been some issues with some lots, it turned out better than expected.” She also said transportation has been “pretty easy,” explaining, “Transportation isn’t cheap, but getting trucks has been a whole lot easier this year than last year.”
OnionBusiness.com caught up with Rick Greener of Greener Produce located in Ketchum, ID – although Rick was reporting from the beautiful Sun Valley ski slopes where he was coaching the morning of Feb. 6. “Hey, I am out here on the hill, and I can say that demand is slow this week,” he said. “The good news is the market is holding. Growers, at least the ones I deal with, aren’t in any hurry to just push onions out there and drive the market down. They know they have time, and hopefully next week will be a new scenario and we will get demand rockin’ again.” Rick continued, “While I have had some buyers out of LA and Miami say, ‘Oh the market is going down,’ that’s NOT TRUE. We are at a solid and the market isn’t falling off. I am really happy that folks are doing a good job of holding the market up.” Rick also said quality is good. “Everything is very good quality-wise, so, all in all, we’re in a good place right now.”
Texas Rio Grande Valley
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said the Rio Grande Valley’s 1015s are “right on schedule” for a late March/early April start. “They are really beautiful,” he said, and photos sent confirm that statement. Don Ed has said acreage is down in the Valley this season.
Featured image: thanks to Don Ed Holmes for sharing a recent photo of the Texas Rio Grande crop