Featured image: Eastern Oregon onion crop progress, photo courtesy of Grant Kitamura with Baker & Murakami Produce Company
California Central Valley:
Robert Bell with Western Onion in Camarillo told us on July 7 that labor is “terribly short.” He said, “I’m turning the wrench, driving forklifts or tractors – whatever’s needed,” Robert said. He added, “I have an 18-person crew that’s never been the same for more than a day.” Robert noted, “They’re being paid more to stay home than work, especially the local trucks that haul from field to shed. We’ve been short all season. While in the Imperial Valley, we normally run 15 loads a day to Bakersfield. We were only able to average eight to 10 a day. Here we’re short one or two, but we can get the loads out. It just takes longer.”
Chris Woo with Owyhee Produce in Nyssa, OR, and Parma, ID, told us the Los Baños, CA, the deal is seeing an uptick. “Demand is decent or better on all three colors,” he said. “The market has crept up some, maybe because of some rain in New Mexico.”
California Central Valley/New Mexico:
Matt Murphy with L&M Cos. in Raleigh, NC told us on July 7 that the demand is very good this week. “We have beautiful onions shipping out of Bakersfield right now,” Matt said. “In fact, this crop has some of the best quality I’ve seen since we started out in the Imperial Valley. The yellow size profile is big. We are getting load volumes of colossals, but we have very few mediums.” He continued, “We are done harvesting reds, and we have a fair supply. They have a large size profile too. We will be completely finished with the Bakersfield harvest July 14 and done shipping on July 20.” Matt said demand for L&Ms Deming, NM, onions is also good. “Most have heard that New Mexico has had on and off rain,” Matt said. “Billy the Kid’s crop in Deming hasn’t received anything too significant, but there was some rain last night. The onions haven’t been affected, but it has thinned out the pipeline, so what we’re seeing is increased demand, and that has impacted the market. Now, the market is picking up and this is the most action we’ve seen in a while.” Matt added that L&M will be shipping out of New Mexico for another three to four weeks. “We should be shipping from Billy the Kid’s operation until Aug. 9 before we start up in the Northwest,” he said. “It should be a pretty smooth transition.”
Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce in Nyssa, OR. reported on July 7 that Eagle Eye is shipping out of California and New Mexico. “Out of California, we are shipping yellows and reds,” he said. “The sizing is mostly leaning to jumbos with a few mediums, and the quality has been very good. We are also shipping all three colors out of New Mexico. We had a bit of a slowdown due to rain, but it’s picked right back up.” He continued, “We have a lot of demand right now, and the market on reds and whites has picked up, but the market still needs to come up on yellows. With this increased demand, we need to start really pushing this yellow market. There just isn’t any reason for it to be as low as it is right now.” On transportation, Jason said, “It’s the same, just the same horrible situation it always has been. Nothing’s new.” Jason added that Eagle Eye will be shipping out of New Mexico until mid-August before the company transition to its Northwest programs.
James Johnson with Carzalia Valley Produce in Columbus reported on July 7, “Rain has made harvest a little tricky the last couple weeks.” He said that reds “are super hard to find this week,” and James added, “The rains have made it worse!” In addition, “Plastic, corrugate, pallets, bags and employees are awful hard to find, and I think all shippers at this point are doing the best that they can with what they’ve got!” He added, “Last year was a piece of cake compared to this one.”
Doug Bulgrin with Gumz Farms in Endeavor told us on July 7 that Gumz is currently repacking onions out of California, New Mexico, and Washington. “We are packing all three colors, and demand is excellent this week,” Doug said. “We have also seen the market start to get better this week too, which is a good thing.”
Doug Bulgrin with Gumz Farms in Endeavor told us on July 7 that the Gumz crop is in good shape. “We have experienced some heat lately, but we have received some timely rain, so the crop is in good shape, and we are on track for a Labor Day harvest date,” he said.
Colorado Western Slope:
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in McAllen, TX, said on July 7 the western Colorado crop is coming along well. “We got past what we hope is the hottest week of summer,” he said, adding the onions have had “no heavy pressure from insects or disease.” And, he said, “At this point, we’re looking at starting 10 days to two weeks ahead of schedule. We haven’t had any water issues so far.”
Ryan Fagerberg with Fagerberg Farms/Fagerberg Produce in Eaton told us on July 7 that his crop is coming along well. “So far this year, crop quality is looking promising,” Ryan said. “However, I’m anticipating starting harvest one week later than normal due to a cooler than average April.” He continued, “We will have all colors and sizes, including Colorado Sweets, ready to ship Monday, Aug. 16.” And, Ryan added, “ Also, we have reshaped our organic program and are hoping that area of our company can gain more traction this upcoming shipping season. Our Colorado Organics will be ready to ship the first or second week of September.”
Matt Murphy with L&M Cos. in Raleigh, NC, told us on July 7 that L&M expects to start shipping from Washington the second week of August after they transition from New Mexico. “Like everyone in the Northwest, we are keeping an eye on the recent heat,” he said. “Our Warden crop is in good shape, and right now we don’t foresee any issues. We’ll have about the same acreage. Last year, we had off-the-charts yields, and we may not have that this year, but we expect a good crop.”
Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce in Nyssa, OR, reported on July 7 that Eagle Eye plans for a mid-August start-up in the Northwest. “Our growers’ crops look good in both Eastern Oregon and Washington,” he said. “We are watching the to see how the crops respond to the recent heat, but everything looks good, and the onions are starting to bulb.” Jason added, “We have a very positive outlook, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens as we get closer to harvest. Right now, we are getting excited to rock and roll it in August.”
Many thanks to Grant Kitamura with Baker & Murakami Produce Company for sending crop photos of grower partner’s fields located just outside of Ontario, OR. The photos were taken on July 7. “These are early onions that will be harvested the first part of August,” Grant said. “As you can see from the photos, the onions are bulbing with nice size and they should grow another 1/4 inch per week until harvest.”