Trent Faulkner with L&M Cos. in Raleigh, NC, told us on March 20 that demand is excellent this week for L&M’s onions out of Warden. “We have been super busy,” he said. “The market has jumped over 100 percent over what it was last two weeks, and it is steadily going up and up. Demand is steady across the board, but the really hot ticket is medium yellows. Reds are becoming really tight. And again, prices just keep escalating. There are no medium reds to speak of and with availability tight, jumbo reds are commanding an excellent price and getting higher as well. There are no whites except for those coming crossing into South Texas”
John Vlahandreas with Wada Farms reported to us on March 20 from his office in Salem, OR. “It is crazy right now,” he said. “Onions are being priced daily. And a lot of that has to do with availability or a lack of availability. The daily numbers of shipments have been fluctuating and are all over the board. Because it is so crazy, it’s really hard to say where it’s all going.”
Steve Baker with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, told us March 20 that demand this week has been good on “on all sizes and colors.” Steve added, “The market is steady at the moment after the past 10 days of rapid pricing increases,” and he said Baker & Murakami has good availability on yellows with mixer quantities of reds. “Quality has been very good,” he noted. Commenting on transportation, Steve said, “We are getting the trucks we need for our orders. Railcars are a different matter. We can’t get what we ordered the past few weeks.”
Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce Sales in Parma, ID, said on March 20, “What a great couple weeks for everyone! Buyers did well as the onions they bought were worth a lot more by the time they got to their doors, and growers did well to get more for their remaining product. The numbers demonstrate great shipments, and a lot of product was exchanged, and it also helps us understand why the phones, texts, and emails aren’t as crazy the first part of this week as they were.” Dwayne said, “More supply will continue to be depleted each week in the Northwest, and I have a hunch that the phone lines, texts and the ‘you have mail’ alerts will fire up again before we know it!
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, told us March 20 it’s been a “busy son of a gun and we’re rockin’ and rollin’” with Mexico. He said he’s on the last third of the Mexican crop and “could be really close to finishing by the end of next week” or by the first week of April. He said the yellow deal is “still good, and the white market is red hot.” And, Don Ed said, “The red deal is hot also and I think it might take off like the whites did. It looks like it will be red hot too. And the quality out of Mexico has been very good.” He noted that the Mexico deal will wind down with what looks like it will be a smooth transition to the Rio Grande Valley.
John Harris with Paradigm Fresh in Fort Morgan had timely reports during the week, starting with Monday, March 18, when he wrote, “The market is a bit all over the place this morning, and there seems to finally be some volume on Mexican onion for the first time. For now we have a few pallets of reds of each size. I have load volume each on medium and jumbo yellows for immediate shipment.” On March 19, he added, “It looks like things have finally leveled off in this crazy market and there is a small amount of volume coming up from Mexico. Reds are scarce as can be and whites remain $50+. We have load volume on Jumbo yellows and medium yellows. I do have a handful of medium reds as well.” And on March 20 John said, “The week is half over which is almost cause for celebration. This much volatility also causes a lot of second guessing and so far this week that seems to be what is going on. The pipeline was filled up pretty good the last two weeks and it seems to have slowed the market down enough for all of us to at least take a collective deep breath. Domestically, it looks like the yellow price has settled out between $13 and $15 FOB with good availability for the moment. Reds remain very tight trading between $12 and $14 FOB and there are basically only pallets quantities of medium reds available anywhere. Mexican onions are starting to show up in McAllen in a little more volume. Availability is sporadic day to day, and they have had some rain in that region, which will also likely impact what we see cross in the coming days. We have supplies everywhere including our packing facility in Fort Morgan.”
Rick Minkus with Minkus Family Farms in New Hampton reported that he is experiencing a little bit of a “stand-off,” saying, “Buyers are complaining about the spikes in pricing, but we aren’t dropping. Reds and whites are the endangered species list, and they aren’t coming off that list for a while. On reds, you have to really look, and when you find a pallet, you might have to take other stuff you don’t need. As for as New York product goes, we will be finished with our stuff at the end of next week. We’re going to take the money and run. Seriously, there just isn’t much quality New York product left anywhere out there.” Rick noted that his fields have thawed, and crews hope to start planting near April 1. “We haven’t been able to get much done in the fields, but we are doing our drainage work now,” he said.
Rick Greener with Greener Produce in Ketchum, ID, told us on March 20 that his operation is extremely busy. “As with the last several weeks, Mondays and Tuesdays start out a little slow,” he said. “After buyers accept the reality and get over the sticker shock, the buying starts really moving on Wednesdays. Demand across the board is exceptional and the smaller sizes are doing extremely well. The market is strong and has the potential to get higher. The only whites are crossing from Mexico at $55, and that is just too high for some buyers.” He continued, “The Northwest is really well positioned right now because there are a lot of buyers that don’t really want to move to a new crop when they are going to have to turn around right away and move to another new crop. It’s just too much work explaining the transition to the end-user. We are planning to go to California at some point when we are done up here, but we are going to have to see how that all plays out with reduced acres and possible a slower start.”
Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce Sales in Parma, ID, said on March 20 the 2019-20 crop is going into the ground. “On next year’s front we started planting Friday,” Dwayne said. “Some fields are still too wet, and so we have just adjusted planting plans to fit what the soil looks like instead of what we had down on paper.” He added, “There is a chance of more rain this weekend, so we will see what happens. We are grateful for what is in the ground, as it seems not every farm in the Northwest has been as fortunate as us to get started.” Many thanks to Dwayne Fisher for providing recent planting photos.
Trent Faulkner with L&M Cos. in Raleigh, NC, said L&M’s operation in New Mexico is on track for a June start up. “We are planting transplants now and things are looking good, but it’s really just too early to assess the crop,” Trent said. “We are moving along though, and everything is getting done.”
Texas Rio Grande Valley:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco said recent cloudy days and cooler temps have put the RGV crop behind by a few days. “We’re two or three days later than I thought we would be,” he said, adding that he still expects to have Texas onions by April 5 if not a couple of days earlier. “Our start date is normally in late March, so we’re in the window,” he said. “And it looks now like we’re going to have good quality, good volume and good pricing for the Texas crop.”
Cliff Riner with G&R Farms in Glennville provided us with the latest on G&R’s plans for the Vidalia season startup. “While it is possible we could start up with some Georgia Sweets prior to the Vidalia season start date, our goal is to get the proper maturity on the onions for our customers,” he said. “It all depends on the weather. On this first third of the crop, we are seeing good bulbing, clean fields, nice uniformity and we anticipate having a nice size that our customers want. We are working now to get water on them to finish. Given the difficult time we had planting, we have been very blessed that the onions have turned out so well.” Cliff also mentioned that G&R Farms has been engaging customers throughout the growing season. “We have sent regular updates on the crop to our customer base that has included not only crop progress but also statistical information that they find helpful,” he said. “Along with our social media, we have generated a lot of excitement, and our customers are anxious to get going this year.” Many thanks to Cliff Riner for the recent photos of the G&R Vidalia crop.
Our featured image this week is yellow onions displayed in retail earlier in March in Southern California.