Featured image: Southeast Colorado onion planting, courtesy of Zach Mason with Zach Mason Farms in Fowler
Matt Murphy with L&M Cos. in Raleigh, NC, reported on March 10 that everything is going well for L&M. “Derek Ennis and I visited our Warden, WA, shipper last week, and the storage onions look really nice, just about as nice as we’ve ever seen them at this time of year,” he said. “So we expect a good finish to the season which will be around the middle of May.” Matt said demand this week is very good. “Demand started increasing about the middle of last week, and it has taken off this week,” he said. “If it weren’t for transportation problems, I am sure it would be even stronger. There is very good demand for jumbos in all colors this week, and we’ve even seen an increase for colossals too. We are still trying to figure out where that’s coming from, but there is no denying that the country is opening back up and the weather is getting nicer. All good signs for sure.” On the market side of things, Matt said it’s getting better. “I wouldn’t say it’s on fire, but it’s definitely getting stronger. You’re starting to see some shippers clean up and regions outside the Northwest are finished for the season. That’s helped bring up the market floor. I think we’re going to see the market continue to increase, too. With our Calipatria, CA, and New Mexico crops looking good, we could be in for an exciting summer.”
John Vlahandreas with Wada Farms reported from his Salem, OR, office and told us that demand is good this week. “Between the continued success of the Food Box Program, lifted COVID restrictions and more people getting out and about, there continues to be increased demand for onions this week. The Food Box Program has definitely put a strain on medium availability, too,” he said. On quality, John noted that Wada’s Idaho/Oregon and Washington shippers have done an excellent job of storage management. “I haven’t had any quality issues at all,” he said. Market-wise, John told us, it’s strengthening. “The market is creeping up, and it’s happening a little sooner than I had expected. Both yellow and red pricing is increasing, but the white market is stable, which is a little surprising. For this time of year, you would expect the white market to be stronger.” He added, “The market should continue to move up. Potentially, the only thing holding it back right now is transportation. The truck situation was already bad, but trucks are being diverted to areas hit but storms, and gas prices are going up, too. Sometimes it’s hard to predict just what’s going to happen. Boy, I think most of us would agree, the produce business is like its own Las Vegas.”
Steve Baker with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, told us on March 10, “Demand has been good this week. Medium yellows seem to be the tight item for the week. Demand for all other sizes and colors are even across the board. With more states opening up and relaxing COVID-19 restrictions, demand should hopefully stay strong.” He continued, “The onion market is higher this week from the prices we saw last week. I haven’t heard anything new about the Texas crop in regard to the freeze damage. We’re still hearing damage estimates from 15-30 percent. If we can market the remaining crop in an orderly fashion, we have a good chance finishing this season with a strong market.” He noted that quality has been “very good,” and he said transportation is “extremely challenging this week.” Steve added, “Rates are still high. I just don’t see that changing in the short-term.”
Herb Haun with Haun Packing in Weiser, ID, said on March 8 that the market has picked up. “I’ve seen evidence that people want to get out and get back to normal,” Herb said. “They’re not willing to sit home and wait any longer. They’re tired of that and are ready to go,” he noted about increased dining out and businesses opening. “I’m glad to see it,” Herb added. “Right now we’re running strictly yellow onions to close out our own crop,” he said of the 2020-21 season winding down for his company. He said he can source other colors from area sheds. And he said about transportation, “It’s getting better as the weather warms up, and we’re back to using some flatbeds.”
Chris Woo with Owyhee Produce in Nyssa, OR, and Parma, ID, told us on March 10 that the market is up on yellows and reds this week. He added, “Truck availability sucks, and rates are prohibitive.”
Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce Sales in Parma, ID, said on March 10, “Onward and upward is the trend in the onion world. The market has increased on all sizes of reds and yellows over the past three weeks. It is nice to think that you are at least breaking even on the farm on what you are running now.” Dwayne continued, “While that is a nice improvement from the losses we have experienced for the vast majority of our season, there is still a lot of positive ground we can make up moving forward. Everything looks so promising and positive for our area as we finish over the next couple of months.” And, he said, “The country is opening up again, and we are seeing an increase in demand, without question. The national inventories are poised to bring very strong returns to our farms and growers as we move forward and finish up our season.” Dwayne said, “The really positive news is our customers are ready to make some money on onions, again with the looming strong market, they are ready for the increases. My prediction is yellows will be very strong and reds are going to really shock people what they will do as we head to the finish line.” Looking at transportation, he noted, “Trucks are better, but their expenses are up too thanks to our new administration’s policies that have fuel prices on the charge toward $4 on diesel. I paid $3.29 this week already!” He also looked at farm costs, saying, “Speaking of expenses, our farm expenses for our 2021/22 crop year budget are moving up way faster than this current clip on the onion market. The profitable return for farms, and what those returns will have to be, are conversations that need to be had with every salesperson in our area by every grower of their onions! The short-term finish of this season should end on a high note, and California should roll into a strong position. As we begin to plant onions this week and next for next season, budgets and returns really need to be evaluated.”
John Harris with Paradigm Fresh in Fort Morgan said on March 10, “We have been through a pretty busy 10 days. Medium yellows and medium reds remain tight. Jumbo reds seem to have tightened up to some degree as well. Whites still are plentiful out of Mexico right now, but I’m expecting that volume to dwindle by probably the end of next week, which will probably allow prices to come up some. Colossal yellows have actually been a pretty hot commodity in the past week, still leaving jumbo yellows as somewhat the black sheep. They are certainly moving, and the market has improved on them as the medium yellow market has shot up,” John said. He added that he had been to the Las Cruces region of New Mexico recently, reporting that the crop looks good with overwinters on schedule for late May and spring seeded beginning to emerge.
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, told us on March 10 he’s “running wide open out of Mexico.” Don Ed said, “The market has been really good and getting better. We’re close to halfway done out of Tampico now and have good volume on all three colors.”
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission, TX, said on March 10 his Tampico deal is starting to wind down. “It’s been pretty busy,” he said. “We had the best January and February that we’ve seen in several years, and we’ll run full volume out of Mexico through next week, and we’ll start in Texas the week of March 22 with about half that volume.” David said in addition to the reduced volume from Texas’s recent freeze, the first part of the deal will also be off a size and a half. “We’ll peak on mediums with a few jumbos,” he said of the early onions. He said volume for the first third of the deal will be off by 50 percent, and the second third off by “maybe 25 percent.” And he said, “Hopefully by the second half of April we’ll be back at a normal crop. We will have all three colors start to finish.”
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco said on March 10 that his Texas crop, which comes in a bit later, is “so far so good.” He expects the season will start April 1-5, and he said, “We are holding our breath but still looking at those dates. And we have one field of reds that could come in a little earlier.”
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission said on March 10 his Eagle Pass crop “looks normal at this point.” He said, “The onions are very young, and they have a lot of foot.”
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said his growers in Corinne are “working the ground and getting ready to plant in late March,” adding the farm has “a great water source.”
Calipatria, CA, and Deming, NM:
Matt Murphy with L&M Cos. in Raleigh, NC, reported on March 10 that L&M’s California program is scheduled to start up on Monday, April 26. “Derek Ennis was in Calipatria last week, and he reported back that the crop looks really nice and is on track,” Matt said. “Earlier we had some cold weather. But it was really only one day, so it didn’t affect the onions, and Derek reported that they are in great shape on track for our start date.” Matt said that L&M’s NM grower, Billy the Kid in Deming, has a nice crop as well. “Everything is coming along in Deming, and we plan to start up there on June 1,” he said.
Chris Woo with Owyhee Produce in Nyssa, OR, and Parma, ID, said on March 10 Weather is nice and dry warm enough to plant onions now. He said that red acreage “remains steady here, fitting into our crop rotation.”
Zach Mason with Zach Mason Farms in Fowler reported in on March 10 to say, “I should be about 50 percent done planting onions by this Friday when the big storm is supposed to arrive. We’ve been working way into the night every night trying to get as much done because they came out with the forecast saying we could get three feet of snow here this weekend. Probably won’t amount to anything now that everybody has gotten ready.” He continued, “I’ve got yellows, whites and reds all in the ground now though, so I should have all three colors ready on time next fall no matter what the weather does.” And, Zach added, “I’ve actually gone from dreading the snow to wanting the snow – so probably nothing will happen at all!” Many thanks to Zach for the providing the great planting photos this week!