Featured image: Walla Walla Sweet yellow and ‘Rosé’ red variety onions, courtesy of Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing
John Harris with Paradigm Fresh in Fort Morgan told us on July 24, “This market continues to stay strong despite everyone suggesting it should be coming off. I can’t disagree. I, like so many, am just waiting for the shoe to drop here at any point.” He continued, “New Mexico is through its big volume while Washington is on the brink of getting started. I will probably stick with New Mexico for at least another 10 days until Washington gets head of steam going.” The red market, he said, “continues to soften up, but overall prices are still pretty good. There seem to be a few more whites around, although I have not seen the price impacted yet.” And, John said, “It seems that there are a few deals out there, meaning this thing is probably going to start to fall.” He said Washington will have reds and whites available the week of Aug. 5, he said. “To me, the most surprising deal has been that the yellow market has remained very strong. I looked pretty hard to find a jumbo yellow for less than $20 FOB, and I couldn’t do it. This thing will undoubtedly come off next week when Washington gets started, but to what degree, I really have no idea. I have been wrong about what I thought the yellow market would do for the entire month of July, and so I guess I’ll just wait and see what this thing looks like come Monday and do my best to react to it at that point.” John was en route to the three-entity Allium Conference in Madison, WI, this week.
Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing’s Walla Walla office said the Northwest is just getting started with early season hybrids. “Earlier there was some talk about the crop would be a little late due to later than normal planting, but the growing conditions over the summer have been very good and the onions seem to have made up some time – which means that the startup is consistent with past years, around the end of July or beginning of August.” He continued, “The good thing with this season’s startup is that we are coming into a good market, and so we feel very positive about the new crop going forward.”
California San Joaquin Valley:
Steve Baker with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, told us July 24 that demand “been very good this last week, and some days it exceeds supply.” He said, “Over a week’s time frame demand for the different sizes has been equally spread out. Depending on the day of the week will dictate the greater demand on sizes.” Steve also said, “The market is very strong on yellow, and the price has been at least $1 higher per bag on all sizes from the previous week. The red market has softened somewhat this week on straight load business.” On availability and quality, he said, “We have been packing long days and shipping a lot of onions. We can’t ask much more from our growers than what they are doing daily. Quality has been very good!” And, Steve added, the season will continue for several weeks. “We should be shipping out of Huron most of the month of August,” he said.
John Vlahandreas with Wada Farms reported on Five Points from his Salem, OR, office on July 24. “Well, demand has been exceeding supplies since May,” he said. “Most often, we don’t have much extra to sell beyond what’s committed. Depending on yields, we anticipate shipping out of Five Points until the middle of August, somewhere around 15-10.” John added, “We have been pleased with the quality, too. This season has been probably one of the best in terms of arrivals, and it’s been a success despite the early wet weather and some bouts of heat. Now, we just have to set ourselves up for a repeat next year and not overdo it just because it was a good year this season.”
John Vlahandreas with Wada Farms reported from his Salem, OR, office and told us on July 24 that the Northwest is getting started. “Our packer in Washington will start up lightly tomorrow or the next day,” John said. “By the time we return from the PMA Foodservice show, we should have onions on the floor ready to go.” And, he continued, “Our folks in Idaho/Oregon are expected to start toward the end of next week. Everything we are hearing is quality is expected to be very good.”
Sweet Onion Program:
Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing reported on July 24 from his office in Walla Walla, WA, “When you have shorter supplies and high pricing yet the movement is still good, it means people are buying onions and aren’t deterred by the price, which is a good thing. The demand for Walla Wallas has been extremely strong this season, and it helped that the packing house put in over $2 million of upgrades, adding to efficiency and packing larger volumes. I don’t know how we would have handled the increased demand without these beneficial upgrades. And this year, we have had huge success with the Rosé red variety. It is a true certified Walla Walla Sweet, and the taste is fabulous.” Dan said that Keystone’s Vidalia program went well. “Vidalia growers are winding down their season, and it’s been a good one,” he said. “Shorter supplies and nice quality helped with pricing, and all in all it was a good season for Vidalia. Now, Vidalias are in just a few hands in Georgia, and the season should conclude in mid-August.” He noted that Keystone’s Peruvian program is just getting started. “The first shipments are in port on the East Coast and making their way to packing facilities,” he said. “It should be another couple of weeks before the first shipments have reached Los Angeles. The reports we are getting is that there will be limited volumes at first, but the growing weather has been good for Peru, and it’s anticipated that there will be good quality with normal volumes for the season.”
Rick Greener with Greener Produce in Ketchum, ID, told us July 24 that demand and the market across the board for all colors and sizes are steady. “You know, things are moving along smoothly,” Rick said. “Quality is very good from all regions we are shipping from too, which are Cali, New Mexico and Washington.” He continued, “I will say there seem to be quite a few reds out there, but that’s not the case with yellows and whites.” And coming up, Rick said, “We expect to be shipping out of Idaho/Oregon sometime in the middle to the end of next week. The volumes and sizing out of the gate will be small, but we are hearing we’ll have the good quality from the jump. And even though the Northwest will start ramping up, we don’t foresee any dip in the market. I mean that’s why a lot of these Northwest growers are anxious to get in is to capitalize on good pricing. So why would it go down? For the next three to four weeks and beyond, I just don’t see it moving out of the teens on pricing.”
Bob Sakata with Sakata Farms in Brighton, CO, told us July 24 the crop continues to look great. “We were spared the hail they had up north,” he said. Sakata Farms expects to start harvest around Labor Day, with the crop shipping into March 2020. The split remains heavy to yellows, with about 20 percent whites and 5 percent reds. Sizing, Bob said, looks now to be headed mostly to mediums and jumbos.
Steve Baker with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, told us July 24 the Treasure Valley crop is “coming along nicely, and we should have some nice onions to start with.” He said Baker & Murakami expects to start packing “somewhere between Aug. 9- 12.”