Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce Sales in Parma, ID, told us Jan. 15 that the New Year has brought “New Optimism, New Price!!!!” He said, “Boy have we been busy. Demand all season has been fantastic and continues in that trend. Now we get to add to that a steady price increase and some much need optimism. What a difference a few weeks make.” Dwayne continued, “It is nice selling a product that is worth more when it arrives at your customer’s door than when it left yours. It really all started feeling different after we got back from the NOA in Hawaii – as I said a few weeks ago, I vote Hawaii every year, especially given these positive results. This deal does have an entirely new feel to it, and I don’t believe that is going to change.” Looking at the Treasure Valley, he said, “Supplies in our area and our sheds are tight, and we are going to have to slow way down to make it even close to our desired/needed ending point. I believe the majority of the shippers are in a similar situation, which should continue to bolster growers’ returns. Let’s not forget they have a long way to go before they would even break even on this crop, BUT we are headed in the right direction!” And, he said, “I think my advice to growers now is manage your supply and possibly even your shipper. If they are telling you they have to run hard to get finished, maybe it’s time to seek other marketing avenues that will allow your onions to get a fair shake at what positive opportunities lie ahead!” He concluded, “2019 is off to a fun start with a theme of ‘Never say Never!’”
Steve Baker with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, weighed in on Jan. 16, saying, “Demand has been very good so far this week!” He added, “This is not unusual for this time of year. Historically demand is usually very good the first two weeks of January.” Steve noted that demand is “strong on all items, but the medium-sized onions are harder to come by in all colors.” He went on to say, “We have good availability on yellows and reds. Whites are still tight. The quality has been very good.” And, Steve said, “The market has been on the rise this week compared to last week’s market,” noting, “We are able to get the transportation that we need at this time.”
Ryan Stewart with Fort Boise Produce in Parma, ID, told us Jan. 16 the current market has “been really good, especially on whites.” He said Fort Boise has whites available, and he said both demand and quality are very good.” “Reds are staying about the same. They’ve been ‘normal’ all year. Yellows are definitely climbing.” Ryan said the market has been improving with the shortage in Europe, and it’s had what he called a “snowball effect.” He added, “There has been lots of demand out of Mexico. Several factors have been shifting prices.” Ryan said Fort Boise expects a normal shipping season through April, and he said the growing operation is gearing up to order seed.
Chris Woo with Owyhee Produce in the new Parma, ID, offices told us Jan. 16 the bolstered market is “a pleasant change.” He said, “It’s trending upward, and orders are coming in the way they’re supposed to. Our customers are accepting increased prices, and hopefully, this will continue.” Chris said price increases are orderly, and he said whites are seeing the biggest jump. “Yellows and reds are modestly increasing,” he said. “What amazes me is that the Treasure Valley is up thousands of loads over where we were this time last year, and hopefully sooner rather than later the prices will reflect that. We would like to see higher FOB to make up for the first four months.” Chris also said some smaller sheds in the region as well as in other shipping areas could clean up earlier than usual, “maybe in February or March.” And he said Owyhee is shipping all sizes and all colors and will go through “the latter part of April.”
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said on Jan. 16 movement out of Utah continues to be good, and he said, “Business is very good. The market is better, and it’s important to keep the drive alive.” Good quality and good demand for the Utah onions is expected to carry through to the early Mexico season, which Don Ed said will likely begin the last week of January or the first week of February with sweets. “It’s cooled off there,” he said, noting the season has been slightly slowed by the weather. He added that crop shortages in that country have resulted in Mexico being a net importer at this time. “I had two or three calls from Mexico looking to buy onions last week,” he said.
Our friend Bob Sakata with Sakata Farms in Brighton sounded great on Jan. 16 when he told us, “Demand is better.” Soon to turn 93, Bob continues to go to his office each day and keep tabs on the industry. Sakata Farms got whacked by weather during the growing season, first by wind and then by hail. Bob said most of the onions harvested are going to institutions and other local/regional receivers, and he said he expects shipping to go to the “end of February or maybe early March.” He did note that while demand has ticked up, “It hasn’t affected prices too much, but hopefully it will.”
Jason Vee with Vee’s Marketing in Superior, WI, hit several key points in his report on Jan. 16. “White onions are very scarce, not just artificially by virtue of pack time,” he said. “Pressure on reds is increasing. And the yellow market is firm on all sizes. Prepack yellows are hard to buy. In fact, it’s been difficult to get everything covered without making multiple picks.” Jason continued, “That’s a problem I usually don’t expect until later in the storage season. I’m looking at an order right now with reds, whites, and yellows on it that may easily be three picks to make it happen.” He said, “Up markets are difficult to navigate. We all needed the upward mobility from Fall 2018 markets, but it’s hard to price an item like jumbo white that has gone from $12 to high twenties in two weeks or less. It’s easy to undervalue and lose money on the incline. High twenties will probably be undervalued by the time anyone reads this. Enjoy the ride. The next white onion district is a long time away.” He also said, “Freight feels easier – at least for me it does. We hired a new person (Tracy) to handle billing this week. That frees up Angie to be 100 percent dedicated to our expanding freight department. So freight either got easier this week for everyone, or it just feels easier because Angie is doing more of the work that I was doing.”
California Imperial Valley:
Our friends Steve Gill and Megan Jacobsen with Gills Onions in Oxnard shared some good news with us on Jan. 16. “It is great to have rain in California,” they agreed. “We’ve had several recent storms with a few more on their way. We welcome the weather.” Gills storage onions “are looking very good and size profile is strong,” we were told. And, “Harvest is also right around the corner. Our Imperial Valley onions are on track to be harvested starting around April 15.”
Texas Rio Grande Valley:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco told us Jan. 16 the Texas crop is “still generally dormant,” but warmer weather is in the forecast for next week. Don Ed also said The Onion House is prepping take part in Viva Fresh, which will be held in late April in San Antonio.