Featured image: G&R Farms 2020 Vidalia crop progress courtesy of G&R Farms.
John Vlahandreas with Wada Farms reported from his office in Salem, OR, on Jan. 20. “Right now I am moving onions mostly out of Washington,” he said. “Demand is decent, and with the Food Box Program kicking in, medium demand is going to get hotter with larger sizes to follow.” When asked about the market, John said its “eh – so-so.” He said, “It’s not terrible, but it’s not the best. No one likes to talk about it, but let’s face it: Without foodservice, this market is not going to be really awesome.” John continued, “When you look at it, the vaccine is going slow. But even after everyone gets vaccinated that wants it, you have to get people dining out again, and that could take a while, maybe six months.” He added that transportation is somewhat better this week. “There seems to be more trucks available this week, and the rates seem a little better,” he said. “Looks like drivers are done with the holidays.”
Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce Company in Nyssa, OR, reported on Jan. 20 that demand is very good this week. “We are tight on whites and are getting tight on reds coming out of our Eastern Oregon facility,” Jason said. “The awards came out yesterday afternoon for the USDA Food Box Program, and we will be participating again. Actually, the Food Box program has been great for holding the market up, but we all need to remember that we are the ones that need to push this market up and finish strong here and not have another finish like we had last year.” On transportation, Jason said rates remain high. “Rates aren’t good, but there is definitely more availability,” he said. “It’s easier to get rail cars, too.” Jason added quality remains good. He said, “The onions have stored really well, and we are shipping great quality.”
Steve Baker with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, said on Jan. 20, “Demand this week has been fairly good through Wednesday. Hopefully this trend will continue Thursday and Friday.” And, Steve added, “The market has been steady so far this week. With the announcement Wednesday on contracts awarded for Food Box Program, time will tell if the program will have a positive effect on prices.” Quality is very good, he noted. “Truck transportation is still a challenge day to day. We are encouraging buyers to not wait till the last minute to order.”
Chris Woo with Owyhee Produce in Nyssa, OR, and Parma, ID, told us on Jan. 20, “It’s moderate trading at best. Quality of product going in the package fine, with no issues, and production levels and sizes are normal for this time of year.” He added, “It’s a good time to offer price/profitability/usage promotion for remaining crop in storage.” Transportation offerings, Chris said, “are adequate.” And, he said, “Snowpack for next season’s water usage is decent, and the planting schedule will commence a month out.”
Dan Phillips with Central Produce Dist. in Payette, ID, said on Jan. 20 that demand is good this week. “Our demand is definitely giving us enough to put in full days,” he said. “There really isn’t one size doing better than any other. When you look at overall onion shipments, it’s pretty amazing how many onions are moving, so onion demand is definitely there.” He went on to say, “We have been putting in bids for the USDA Food Box program, but it hasn’t fully kicked in yet. One funny thing about this round is that we are putting in bids for jumbos so it may end up helping us with both mediums and jumbos, which is good.” On the market, Dan said it’s steady. “There hasn’t been much change market-wise. But one thing that has changed somewhat is transportation. There seems to be a lot of trucks out there this week, and rates are dropping. This probably has to do with the fact that the holiday commodities have dropped off, and we are back to potatoes and onions.”
Rick Greener with Greener Produce in Ketchum picked up our call on Jan. 20 while working on his “free-range” Hawaiian sales desk. “Sure, I’ve had to get up a little early the last couple of weeks, but yes, I am working,’ Rick laughed. “We actually really busy this week. The Midwest is kind of doggie, but the East Coast and West Coast sales have been good. Whites are getting tight, and reds are getting there too, but yellows are doing well. The Food Box Program kicked back in, and this time it looks like they’re taking more sizes, so that’s good news. Not much to report on the market. It’s the same. Stable. Good news on freight. The truck availability is better, and rates look like they’re getting better, too.”
Colorado Western Slope/Utah:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, told us on Jan. 20 that his Western Slope deal will wrap up this week. “We’ll finish running Colorado on Friday,” he said. “We’re running wide open in Utah and will go another month there. Quality is great on the reds and yellows.”
John Harris with Paradigm Fresh in Fort Morgan weighed in on Jan. 20 to say, “We seem to have hit the January wall that comes this time every year. I was chatting with an industry friend on Monday, and he said it’s crazy how you can set a clock for this every year. His words ring loud and clear.” John went on to say that the crop is short, “and yet we still just have not seen really any major market pushes that I feel like are going to come at some point.” Whites are starting to come in from Mexico, and the “description from everyone is that quality is really good.” Noting good growing weather in Mexico this season, he said it’s “no surprise that the initial crop is not only a bit early, but also that quality is being touted as very good. I have yet to buy anything from down south, but I expect to be a buyer as soon as next week.” He said whites and yellows remain “very status quo,” and John said, “With the Box Program preparing to roll out in a week and the shortage in Canada, make no mistake about it – a push, particularly on medium size yellow onions, is going to happen. It might take until Late February or March, but this market will get off the ground.” In the meantime, he said, he believes things will remain steady. Demand isn’t likely to “encourage any uptick in market conditions,” but John advised to “be prepared for things to get out of this slump that they are currently in.” He said, “As we all know, when the market decides to move, it happens quick, and these growers will make no apologies for wanting to get paid a little more after the overall low market that they have endured over the past six months.”
Don Ed Holmes with the Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said on Jan. 20 he’ll start running onions from Tampico next Monday or Tuesday, starting with carton sweets and 50# medium yellows. “We’ll have whites by the end of the week, and by Feb. 1 we’ll have reds. Quality is good, and volume will pick up around the middle of February.” He said the sweet onion deal is seeing good demand and will run into April.
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission, TX, said on Jan. 20 his growers in Mexico are well into the harvest, with all colors and packs running this week. “We more than doubled our capacity for consumer packs,” David said, adding that there has been a “lot of demand and movement is good, but the market hasn’t reacted yet with higher prices.” He said that total volume will be the same as or maybe slightly less than 2020. “The yields are good, but acreage is down some this year.”
Walt Dasher with G&R Farms in Glennville, GA, told us on Jan. 20, “Because Peru experienced optimal temperatures and good weather in late October and early November, we expect to have good and steady volume through the end of March. Yields have continued to improve from the shortfall in the early season crop, which was due to cooler than normal temperatures.”
Texas Rio Grande Valley:
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission told us on Jan. 20 the temps in the Rio Grande Valley were mild and the crop “continues to progress.” He said he expects his first loads to ship March 10-15.
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco said on Jan. 20 the Valley had warmed up after a cool spell, and he said the onions are warming up as well. “We’ll have onions from the latter part of March through mid-May,” he said.
Cliff Riner with G&R Farms in Glennville, GA, reported to us on Jan. 20, “Our sweet onion crop has been establishing itself rather well. This winter has been consistently cold so far, and that creates a lot smaller top or leaves to look at. The positive about having smaller plants so far is that we generally have less plant disease and that gives us better onion quality for the customer. Also, the slower that the onions are growing makes for smaller rings and a denser bulb that has great shelf life. We are constantly working with the crop, however. We have a schedule to apply the fertilizer and nutrients that the plants need throughout the season, and each field gets its own prescription to make the best quality bulbs.” Cliff added that the crop’s health and status are monitored “by taking plant tissue samples and analyzing their health and nutrition levels.” He said G&R works closely with University of Georgia specialists and Waters Agricultural Labs to “constantly provide quantitative analysis of the crop.” He added, “I also compare this season’s development with previous years’ in monitoring weather and climate data. Myself and our crop team communicate constantly about what we see in the field and how we feel about each field.” Cliff said the next few weeks will be “extremely busy” with a “lot of development with the crop.” He said the operation’s certified organic acreage is coming along well with a good plant stand that “should translate to a good yield per acre. Many thanks to G&R Farms for providing this week’s featured image as well as more of the G&R’s last Vidalia crop photos shown below.