Featured image: Vidalia crop courtesy of Danny Ray with Ray Farms, Inc. in Glennville, GA
John Vlahandreas with Wada Farms reported from his Salem, OR, office on Jan. 6. “We started the week pretty strong until everyone figured out what trucks are costing,” he said. “By the time you tack on freight to the price you need in order to get some return to the shipper and the grower, the demand starts to slip. This issue shouldn’t last long.” He added, “Availability on trucks should start picking up in the next couple of weeks, and we all have to remember this is the first year without Railex, so we’re adjusting to that, too. Pricing isn’t so hot right now, but that should change too when the Food Box Program kicks in the next couple of weeks. I guess folks are getting these boxes. I haven’t really heard of where they are all going, but if it’s helping families out and it’s a boost for our industry, that’s a very good thing.”
Steve Baker with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, told us on Jan. 6, “Demand has been decent this week, even across the board on all sizes and colors.” Steve also said that the market has been steady. “The Food Box Program that was announced this week has the industry hopeful for increased demand and higher prices.” Quality, he said, “has been excellent.” And about transportation, Steve said, “Transportation is still a challenge this week. We are still communicating to our buyers to try and order ahead as much as possible because of the uncertainty of trucks.”
Dan Phillips with Central Produce Distributors in Payette, ID, told us on Jan. 6 that Central was having a “great week so far.” He said, “We did something a little different this year. Usually, we close between Christmas and New Year’s, but this year we stayed open.” He added, “There are not a lot of sales for shippers during this time, but we gave it a try. Then when we came in on Monday, we really had a lot of orders. This has been the case through this morning.” Dan said, “We don’t have any more whites, but there has been good demand for all sizes of both yellows and reds.” And he said the market is steady. “What can I say about the market? Steady, I guess? We really need more, but at least it’s not dropping. I think the announcement of the fifth round of the food box program has shippers excited, and we are hopeful that this will help us with the market, too. It needs to because our quality remains very good.” Transportation, he said, continues to be “horrible.” He noted, “Trucks hurried home for the holidays, and they aren’t in a big hurry to get back out there. It could be a good two weeks before we see any good availability.”
Chris Woo with Owyhee Produce in Nyssa, OR, and Parma, ID, said on Jan. 6 that “retail demand is perky,” and “foodservice not.” He added, “Everyone is busy bidding on the next go-around for the USDA Food Box Program,” and he said, “Chris Woo is working early in the morn till late at night, making many calls in order to sell more onions at profitable pricing to all.”
Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce Sales in Parma, ID, weighed in on Jan. 6, saying, “Happy New Year and happy new opportunities as we positively look forward.” He continued, “Many items are out of our hands, including the tight and expensive supply of transportation, but many factors look positive as we move forward. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the new $1.5 billion Box Food Program this week. This program is a big boost to our industry and as intended should be a boost to our American farmers. The additional volume should do much the same as it did during the summer months, as it strengthen their overall fobs.” Dwayne said, “Keeping in mind that only American onions can be used for this program, this is a great help to our growers and farms as we conclude our shipping season the next four or so months. This development, along with the over half-decade record low national inventory statics, should provide for positive returns to our farms moving forward.” And, he said, “In terms of inventory, we will finish our Utah production in less than 15 days. In Idaho we will run shortened weeks to make sure we stretch our inventory to the end of April to have sufficient supplies for our valued customers.” He also said, “As we move forward, I suspect future prices could be much stronger, and we can end our shipping season on a positive note. My summer shipping friends are very optimistic about their upcoming season, and so we should be as we finish off what has been a big loser for our farms and growers thus far.”
Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce in Nyssa, OR, told us on Jan. 6 that his sales team is “swamped” this week. “Demand has been exceptional this week,” he said. “Demand for all sizes and colors is great. Now whites are tight, so we are seeing an uptick in pricing. Reds are starting to tighten up, and pricing there is heading upward. The market on yellows is steady, but the Food Box Program should help us out on getting the market up.” Jason added, “It’s important to remember that for the last five years pricing on yellows has increased in January so there is no reason why this shouldn’t be the case for this year. We have excellent quality, and we need a boost in the market in order for our growers to make any money.” He also noted that the truck situation for Eagle Eye was OK this week. “Actually, we’ve been able to find trucks this week, so we’re in pretty good shape that way.”
We caught up with Rick Greener with Greener Produce in Ketchum, ID, as he was on his way to catch a plane with his family to the big island of Hawaii. “I will be working from the beach for the next week or so,” he said. “It’s OK with me. I have never seen lines so long at the hill (Sun Valley). Must be the influx of folks coming in from Cali.” He continued, “Anyhow, we’ve been crazy busy this week, and pricing is strong. We are currently shipping out of Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Utah. Smaller onions continue to lead the pack on demand, with pre-packs filling in when mediums aren’t available. Whites are super tight, and reds are getting that way. Some sheds are sold out for the week. It all looks like a good start to the new year.” He concluded, “I will say that you better plan a couple of days in advance on trucks. You can get them, but you just need to plan.”
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission, TX, said his Mexico deal is starting up a bit earlier this year. “We started harvesting in Tampico and will start shipping a week from today,” David said on Jan. 6. Whites and yellows will kick off, with reds to follow a couple of weeks later. “We’ve never had yields this early that was this heavy,” he said. “We are now 100 percent transplants, and that makes the crop a lot more uniform and the stands more predictable.” David said interest has been very good this year in part due to the transportation situation in the Northwest. Many thanks to David for sending recent photos of the Tampico crop.
Danny Ray with Ray Farms Inc. in Glennville told us on Jan. 6 that most of the Vidalia growers have their crops all in for an April harvest. “We have our planting all in, and things are looking good,” he said. “Looks like we’ll have the same program that we did last season.” Many thanks to Danny for sending recent photos of his Vidalia crop.