Featured image: Pasco, WA transplants, courtesy of Larry Bauman with L&L Ag Production
John Vlahandreas with Wada Farms reported in on March 29 from his Salem, OR, sales office saying demand is slightly off this week. “As a company, we are moving onions out of the Northwest, Texas and Mexico,” he said. “Demand is a wee bit off this week,” John added. “There are a lot of contributing factors. Mexico is moving in a lot of product, Texas is ramping up, and Northwest sheds are finishing, making buyers seem to wait to see how low the price will go. Then you factor in spring break, and some buyers are also taking the week off. It all contributes to an off week for demand.” John went on to say, “For our demand, jumbo yellows continue to be the hot item, and medium yellows are also moving well. Medium yellows do seem to be holding their price because there are fewer out there.” John provided a further rundown on the market, saying, “The Mexican onion market is a little less. The Texas onion market is a little more, and then the Northwest market is stable. Part of the market status is about where the onions are going. As far as usage, when it comes to foodservice, it seems like foodservice buyers want Northwest and Texas onions, and for everything else it doesn’t matter where the onions are coming from.” Looking ahead, he said we could see the market “get volatile in late April. Mexico crossing at South Texas will start winding down in a few weeks, and Texas will be shipping more, but the Imperial Valley is going to be coming on late, so we’ll have to see what happens, but it might get interesting.”
Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce in Nyssa, OR, told us on March 29 that this week will be the last for shipping out of the company’s Nyssa shed. “We still have jumbo yellows available out of our Nyssa shed, but our Washington shed is shipping all three colors and sizes and will be for the next three to four weeks,” he said. “We are shipping yellows and reds out of Texas and will be adding whites this week. The Texas growing area received rain this week, so we had to put off harvest for a couple of days. But we have enough on the floor to meet our needs so it hasn’t had much of an impact. Plus, we didn’t get as much rain as some areas, so we’re in good shape.” Jason continued, “The quality is very, very good, and we are excited to get going in Texas. Many of our customers have made the transition to new crop, and we are on our way.” Jason mentioned that he will be traveling to Texas soon. “I will be in South Texas next week, and I will have photos and a first-hand update for you.”
Rick Greener with Greener Produce in Ketchum, ID, told us on March 29 that demand is OK this week. “We are shipping out of Idaho, Washington and Oregon, and we’re finishing up Utah and shipping some new crop out of Texas this week,” he said. “There has been some rain in Texas, and it’s been a slow start for some; it just depends on which mile stretch the rain hit because not everyone got the same amount of water.” Rick continued, “We are hoping for an increase in demand for Easter, but who knows? It’s been an interesting month. There are a lot of crossings from Mexico, sheds are cleaning up in the Northwest, and we are just trying to make the transition as smooth as possible for our customers.” He said, “Demand for us is leaning to mediums, pre-packs, and on the largest sizes, colossals. The market is all over the place right now. It depends on what onions you are buying and from where. Some sheds are finishing, so that’s a factor. Some sheds are just getting out of the gate, and that’s a factor. But as I said, all we can do is make the transition as smooth as possible and get our customers the best onions for their needs.” On transportation, Rick said there are no issues. “Transportation has been working out great,” he said. “We have plenty of trucks available. All is working out just fine.”
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said on March 29 he’ll be finishing his Tampico, Mexico, deal next week. “We’re winding down and will be all done by sometime next week.” He added that recent rain in the Texas Rio Grande Valley (see full report in Crop Update below) has delayed his crop there by several days, which “might end up being a good deal.” With more time for the Northwest and Mexico to finish up, Don Ed said, it “ought to give us more orderly marketing.”
Lou Getzelman with Canyon Sales Co. on the Hunts Point Market in New York told us on March 29 that current supply-and-demand conditions have impacted the market. Lou said supply still doesn’t match the demand for onions right now, and he there are not a lot of buyers excited to buy onions right now. I think we’ll see the market start to firm up – it almost has to at this point!” He added, “We’re still seeing decent demand for jumbo and colossal yellows, while the red onion market remains depressed. Buyers are looking to buy good, quality onions. In markets like this, when there are cheap prices around, it’s important to remember that quality is everything.” Also, Lou continued, “Mexican onions came off further this week, and there is more volume coming out of Mexico then many of us foresaw. Prices are still holding up pretty good out of the NW, though, as they get closer and closer to finishing. Although prices are not where they were earlier in the season, it’s good to see that many of these growers in the NW are able to maintain a premium.” And he said, “Looking upon the horizon, we’re still hearing about significant delays in the Imperial Valley. A couple of weeks ago we had heard that we’ll be at least one week behind schedule, and now it seems very likely we’ll be even further behind.” Transportation out of the NW, Lou said, “has continued to be pretty cheap and easy to come by.” He said, “Flatbeds are in high demand out of Texas, and while they haven’t been all that expensive, they have been harder to come by than trucks out of the NW.”
Texas Rio Grande Valley:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco said on March 29 recent rains will “knock us back maybe a week,” but the precip had its silver lining. “Some of the onions needed water, and water’s going to get tight.” He also said the delay will allow the Northwest and Mexico to finish up in a more orderly fashion.
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in McAllen said his crews “won’t event try to get back in the fields until Monday” after rains earlier this week.” We have a lot of stuff and all three colors, but the question right now is where can you get in?” He said once they get back in the fields, it’ll be several days before the onions start going out. He also said the Eagle Pass region expects to begin its season May 5.
Larry Bauman with L&L Ag Production in Connell/Pasco checked in with us today and shared photos. “These are our transplants going in the Pasco, WA, area today,” he said. “L&L Ag Production LLC has finished the direct seeded onions in Pasco, and we are planting in the Connell-Othello area now. The BOR water is in most of the canals and we are able to start the drip systems as we finish planting. In spite of our weather with showers and cold temps, I think most of the onions in the Columbia Basin are being planted in a normal time period.” Larry continued, “In looking forward through the next two weeks, the weather forecast doesn’t look favorable in getting the crop off to a quick start. Through all of this we must always remember that God is still in control!” Amen! And he said, “In checking on the onion crop we have left, we are pleased with its storage condition, so we should finish in our normal year in a late May time frame. The summer down time at Target Ag Production LLC will be busy as we are planning to upgrade our Ellips Camera system to the new A I 2 platform and also finishing the installation of the Modesta Air System that was started in 2020.” Click on photos to enlarge and scroll.
Walla Walla, WA:
Michael Locati with Locati Farms and Pacific Agra Farms in Walla Walla told us on March 29 he had started the transplants last week and was about halfway through that part of the planting. “The spring seeded is all in, and our overwintered are looking pretty good,” he said. “We could use some rain and warmer weather, but things look good at this point.” The 2023 program, he said, has not changed from last year’s, and his Walla Walla Sweet Rosés will comprise similar acreage as 2022 as well, making up approximately 10 percent of the total crop. “That’s something that continues to grow,” he said of the Rosé volume.” He continued, “We’re just kicking along right now, hoping for a normal mid-June start. We had a relatively mild winter, and things are just waking up now and looking good overall.” Many thanks to Michael for sharing a crop progress photo with us this week.
S. Texas/Imperial Valley/New Zealand:
Robert Bell with Western Onion in Camarillo, CA, updated us on several regions March 29, saying colleagues and friends in Texas report “a big crop and have started harvesting, but they’re going to take it slow due to market conditions.” Robert added he’ll be taking visitors from Australia to S. Texas in mid-April to look at mechanical onion harvesting. And he said, “A couple of farms will start in Imperial by mid-April also. Gerry Valois and Pedro Rodriguez are down there now inspecting the crop and making marketing plans.” As for the New Zealand season, Robert said, “NZ is working hard to increase shed production so they can meet European demands before their local crop comes off in June. They’re having challenges packing and grading due to all the rain and rain related quality issues received during this year’s harvest, so volumes are down.”
John Vlahandreas with Wada Farms reported on March 29 from his Salem, OR, sales office saying the Imperial Valley will be coming in late this season. “It looks like the normal April 15 start date isn’t going to happen for the Imperial Valley this year,” he said. “They have had cooler temps, and we’re looking at the potential of an April 24 start-up, or even later. The crop needs some heat units now, but the good news is it doesn’t take much for the onions to catch up down there. Once they get going, they can make up a lot of ground. We’ll just have to wait and see what the next few weeks look like.”
Colorado Lower Arkansas Valley:
Our thanks to Zach Mason with Zach Mason Farm in Fowler, who told us on March 28, “It’s a widely known fact that the wheels on onion planters are the source of spring winds.” Our thanks to Zach for the great shot – it’s good to see that tractor in the field!