Featured image: Eastern Oregon crop progress, Courtesy of Josh Frederick, GM with Snake River Produce Company in Nyssa, OR (the series of crop progress photos is included below)
Michael Locati with Locati Farms and Pacific Agra Farms told us on July 20 that he’s “a little over the halfway point” with this year’s Walla Walla Sweets harvest. “We’re getting to the transplants,” Michael said, noting the region has experienced the heat hitting the NW. “But the onions are doing good,” he said. Michael said he’s been shipping his Walla Walla Rosé Sweet Onions since right after July 4, and he said he’s getting into the transplant reds as well now. “They look good,” he said of the Rosés, adding that he expects them to ship until the first week of August. The Walla Walla Sweets should continue shipping “at least until mid-August,” he added. And when asked about transportation, Michael said he hasn’t heard of any issues. “We’re pretty much in the Northwest,” he said of the marketplace.
Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce Sales in Parma, ID, weighed in on July 20, saying, “We are finally being able to get trucks out in a more civilized manner in California. Product remains tight, but again trucks are getting loaded faster than previous weeks, and the market remains firm, so all positives.” Dwayne continued, “I think the new reality has set in that onions are just going to be $20 or more delivered. I don’t see that changing, and if it did you would see an even bigger swath of growers quit or be forced to throw in the towel.” And, he said, “Looks like California finishes up mid-August, and very limited supplies in Idaho will be ready to pack at that point for the transition. We have had lots of calls asking for contracts from end users, and everyone gets the same response: We aren’t able to do anything. I heard one company tell a grower that he heard growing costs were getting better or easing up. I laughed and said, ‘When is the last time they replaced any equipment or repaired it even for that matter, or bought any fertilizer or chemicals, or paid to get their fields weeded?’” He went on to say, “Just because fuel has come off 35 cents doesn’t mean anything else is easing up on our side of the P&L! Costs remain at record levels and continue to climb each month as the bills come in. Expect this market to transition with strength and to carry that forward into the storage season ahead.”
Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce in Nyssa, OR, told us on July 20 that his company is moving onions out of California, New Mexico, and Washington. “Demand is a little slower this week but still good,” he said. “Medium and jumbo yellows are in good demand, but reds have come off some. This could be due to more availability on reds.” Jason added, “The market and pricing for yellows remain steady, and as demand has dipped on reds, the market has come off on those a bit too. Quality of shipments continues to be very, very good so we’re happy with that.” On transportation, Jason told us it’s about the same. “Truck availability is still good, but pricing is expensive, as always.”
California/New Mexico/North Dakota/Washington:
Rick Greener with Greener Produce in Ketchum, ID, provided his “Free Range” report from Michigan this week. “We are currently shipping out of California, New Mexico, and North Dakota, with overwinters and transplants coming out of Washington,” he said. “I’m not really sure how to report this week. Maybe it’s just the dog days of summer, but demand definitely isn’t gangbusters. Not a lot of pull. At best demand is average, with medium yellows being the hottest thing out there.” Rick added, “Reds have fallen off, and the market on reds has softened up a bit. Aside from the dip in reds, the market remains steady despite some out there talking it down, for no reason. Maybe it has something to do with Washington coming on with more overwinters and transplants, but it’s tough to know why.” He also addressed trucks, saying “Transportation continues to roll smoothly. Truck availability is good, and we’ve been able to load flatbeds and reefers.” Rick noted, “Don’t forget we have shallots, pearls, and Cippolinis coming out of Idaho, so come and get ‘em!”
Brad Sumner with Pacific Coast Trading in Portland reported to us on July 20, saying his company continues to ship out of California. “We are still shipping a few organic reds out of Bakersfield but gapping on organic yellows and organic whites,” he said. Brad noted that demand is strong. “Demand is really good on all colors and sizes! There is nothing ‘extra’ out there,” he said. And he said the market is responding to the gaps. “Market is rising where there are shortages, yellows especially,” Brad said, adding that quality remains good. On transportation, he said, “We’re shipping very little product, so no real feel for the transportation market. Trucks are showing up to pick up their orders.” When asked where he’ll be sourcing from next, Brad said, “Once we break into the majority of the organic Northwest crop in mid- to late August, supplies will be steadier, and the market should remain good.
Eastern Oregon and Washington:
Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce in Nyssa, OR, told us on July 20 that Eagle Eye’s growers’ crops are progressing well “In Eastern Oregon, we are getting more heat units, and that has helped a lot,” he said. “We are still looking at a mid-to-late August start date. It’s hard to say how it will turn out for yields and sizing. We’ll just have to see how the next few weeks go.”
Josh Frederick, GM at Snake River Produce in Nyssa, OR, provided us with a comprehensive look at the Treasure Valley growing season to date, saying, “Today we are holding close to that 97- to 99-degree range. Onions just won’t grow much past 93 to 95 degrees so they just sit there. The problem is we are predicted 100-plus degree temperature in the next 10 or so days, and with us being roughly two weeks behind the normal growing schedule, these onions just are not going to size up to full potential compared to previous years. With the temperatures being in the 100-degree range, we are going to see a lot of small plants that haven’t been provided the leaf cover needed to protect the bulb just get zapped.” He continued, “Water will become an issue moving forward as well the next 40 days, despite us having a decent amount from spring and late snowfall and good runoff to the reservoirs above. All our farms pretty much have wells, so we are blessed to have enough water sources for the crops we raise.” Josh went on to say most years the operation likes to start its early onions by the first week of August, “but we probably will not have any early onions until the 20th to 25th of August.” He added, “It could actually stretch past Labor Day this season before we crank the shed up.” Josh said Snake River Produce will have “roughly 500 plus acres of yellow onions and over 120 acres of reds and 30 or so acres of whites of our own stuff” in addition to what it will run for other growers. Harvest will start with reds, followed by yellows and missing whites along the way at the start. “We also will have around 20 or so acres of sweet onions to be packed in cartons as well. I will ship carton sweets end of October or the first of November but most sweets are committed for this season already.” As for market conditions on July 19, he said, “The market today is good. I pray that it continues to follow suit here for a change. With extremely high fuel and fertilizer costs along with labor and shorter yields this season, we are due for a good market and even at that it still will take a lot to offset the cost and expense to cover the crop. We predict a lot of small onions are going to fall right through the chain at harvest due to this year’s conditions with weather and cooler temps with a wet spring.” Noting the 39-degree temp on June 15 and onions the size of “a knob green onion,” he said by July 4, when “the goal to project your crop to be heavy jumbo’s or larger is the size of a silver dollar for the bulbs in the field,” Josh said, “Not saying we didn’t have some half dollar size onions at that time but we sure had a lot of quarter size onions as well.” The size at harvest can’t be predicted now, but Josh said it will “be an interesting year, and with a lot of faith and a little luck we will have onions.” Josh also sent some photos for comparison, with the size progressing as the days go on. On June 14 it was 39 degrees, and the onion was “the size of a knob green onion.” The June 28 photos show the red onions yellow onions’ sizing, and the July 10 photo shows early reds. The final photo is from July 12, with a yellow that was pulled. Our thanks to Josh for the great photos!
Chris Woo also sent us a great photo of Treasure Valley onions maturing and this update: “Local weather has been ideal to make the crop grow further along. Tops are lush and green. Rows have filled in nicely. The crop is finally bulbing the way it’s supposed to be doing.” Chris added, “The bulk of the Treasure Valley crop is still behind two weeks. But the weather is dry and warm, so the crop will be coming along nicely. Looking at around first to the second week of August on start up in a limited fashion.”