Featured image: March 18 photo of Walla Walla transplants, courtesy of Michael Locati with Locati Farms and Pacific Agra Farms
Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce reported from his office in Nyssa, OR, on March 17. “We are super busy this week,” Jason said. “We are moving a lot of yellows, and whites and reds are tight right now. We are moving mixer loads of those out of Eastern Oregon, and we still have good supplies of reds out of Washington.” He added, “The market is holding and is really good on whites right now. With a month and a half left of shipping our Northwest stuff, we still have pretty good quality too.” On transportation, Jason said it continues to be rough. “Trucks are getting stuck in the stormy weather from Wyoming to Nebraska, so that’s hurting us,” Jason said. “But we have been able to load some flatbeds for some lanes.”
Dan Phillips with Central Produce Distributors in Payette, ID, told us on March 17 that business has slowed up a bit this week. “When you look at the volume that has been shipped over the last several weeks, it’s really no surprise that business has slowed a bit this week,” he said. “I think the pipeline is a little full and it’s just going to take a few days to empty out.” He continued, “It doesn’t help that trucks got held up in Wyoming, Colorado and surrounding states. And while the market is holding steady, I hope some folks don’t start getting in panic mode, because it’s definitely not warranted. We are still getting good demand for the yellows and reds in all sizes. As we mentioned earlier, we are out of whites for the season.” Dan noted that some of Centrals growers are in the fields and planting for the 2021-22 season.
Rick Greener with Greener Produce in Ketchum once again was living up to his “free-range” brokerage name by reporting from Snowbird, UT, where his eldest son was tearing up the ski hill and racking up the medals in a national junior freestyle competition. “Demand is steady this week,” Rick said. “Nothing too exciting. It’s mid-March, so everyone knows what I mean. Sort of ho-hum. We are selling loads out of Idaho, Washington and Oregon, and we have some nice whites coming across from Mexico. We do have some Mexican yellows coming across, but I think they must have a pretty good market down there for reds because it seems like they are keeping what they have as far as reds go.” He continued, “Panama is pulling, and that’s good. Canada is pulling. That’s good too. And retail is still going strong.” On quality, Rick said, “I have to say we’ve had great deliveries coming out of the Northwest!” On the market, Rick said, “I think with more Northwest shippers wrapping up in the coming weeks, a crunch could be put on availability, and we could see a move up on the market. But if you’re asking me about this week, it’s just a generic ‘steady.’ That’s about it. Like I said, it’s not a very exciting week. It is what it is, man.”
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission, TX, said on March 16 he was finishing his Tampico deal this week and will start shipping Rio Grande Valley new crop on Monday, March 22, “If all goes according to plan.” He said, “We just have a couple of loads out of Mexico, and then we’ll start up with South Texas.” Commenting on the effects of the recent freeze, David said, “We’re losing size and therefore tonnage on the front end of the Texas deal. We have the same number of bulbs, but they’re smaller.” David added, “We expect to be shipping all three colors at the start, and the front end will be heavier to mediums. That probably won’t change until mid-April for us but not necessarily for everyone. However, it will improve over time for everyone as we find out which areas were harder hit by the freeze.”
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said this was likely his peak week to run out of Tampico, Mexico, and he’ll continue to see good volume the next two weeks. Quality is excellent, he said, on all three colors. He also noted early onions are moving out of Texas this week, and he said, “This Texas deal will end up being very spread out, from March 10 to May 20. We’ll start clipping our onions here in about 10 days and start shipping around April 1, starting with reds and followed by yellows.” Tampico yellows will finish April 5-10, and Don Ed said he will still have whites out of Tampico until he transitions to whites out of Torreón, Mexico, around April 10. On transportation, Don Ed said it was uncharacteristically tough in Texas. “It turned out to be quite an issue this year,” he said. “It’s usually not that much of a problem here,” Don Ed said, noting that Eastertime is traditionally the tightest period for trucks.
Mike Davis with Tex-Mex Onion sales LLC in Weslaco, TX, told us on March 17 that demand for yellows and reds this week is good. “We are selling Mexican onions right now and just getting cranked up on our Texas 1015’s. The demand for yellows and reds is good, but due to quality variations the white demand and market on whites is off,” Mike said. “As long transportation coming out of the Northwest remains an issue, we are going to continue to see good demand and good pricing. Now, if for some reason, the trucks bust loose out of there, it’s going to be a different story. Right now, the quality of the yellows and reds we’re selling is good, and the pricing is the same.” On Texas, Mike said Tex-Mex 1015s have started to ship. “We are just getting started with our season and taking it field by field,” he said. “We are really blessed to have survived the freeze. One thing I will say, it’s too bad that Mexico chooses to extend their season. Between the Northwest and Mexico, it really makes it hard for Texas. It used to be that we would at least have April.”
Colorado Western Slope/Utah:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said on March 17 both his Utah and Colorado growers have started planting the 2021 crop. “Utah is one-half in,” he said, and planting of the Western Slope onions is underway.
Michael Locati with Locati Farms and Pacific Agra Farms told us on March 17 that crews had started both transplants and spring direct-seeded that day, with the transplant process expected to run about three weeks. “The overwinters look good,” he said. “They’re waking up and getting going.” Michael anticipates a mid-June start, noting, “It’s a little early to tell, but it looks like mid-June at this point. The Walla Walla Sweet Rosé, a recent addition to the operation’s Walla Walla Sweet lineup, got a 25-30 percent bump in acreage this year in response to great reception from buyers. Michael said the packing shed is putting in a new consumer pack machine for that item. Many thanks to Michael for sending this week’s featured image as well as the photos of the Walla Walla fall-seeded onion crop as of March 18 shown below.