Imperial Valley, California:
Robert Bell with Western Onion let us know on May 6 that “harvest continues at pace.” He said, “It’s unseasonably warm so we’re harvesting as fast as possible and sending onions to Bakersfield for storage and later packing.” Robert added, “We will finish in the Imperial Valley on Friday and then move north to the Coachella Valley to continue harvest.” Robert has also provided us with this week’s featured image, Imperial Valley onions.
Mike Smythe with Joe Heger Farms reported in on May 6 and said, “This week we are experiencing high temperatures; next week back to normal temperatures.” Mike continued, “Organic onions are in demand, and we have a strong program this season. We also planted flat sweet yellows this season, conventional and organic, and we are happy with the quality we are packing. Overall, quality out of this shed has been very good, we will ship all three colors plus flat sweets next week through the end of May.”
Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing in Walla Walla, WA, told us on May 6 that these are “very hectic times.” He said, “It’s normal that this time of year marketers are assessing their customers’ needs to match up the area from which they are shipping, but it is even more uncertain when you add to it the Coronavirus situation.” And, he continued, “It’s times like these to be grateful for the customer relationships we have and the trust they have in us to supply them with what they need. Some may not believe this, but often even the customers don’t know exactly what they need, and they may not understand that when summer hits, it’s not like just buying storage onions for a longer period of time. We are into summer fresh onions, and that’s why we are jumping around every six to eight weeks. It’s just the nature of the business.” Dan said, “The social distancing has also slowed things down. Think about it – I am the only one in the office, and others are working from home. So, now more things are done through email, and the process is not faster but quite a bit slower. What one of us could hear on a phone conversation and be able to respond quickly now takes two or three emails to get to the same outcome.” Dan also said onion movement is getting better and better, but foodservice continues to be uncertain. “Foodservice is opening back up, but the forecast remains uncertain. The lack of protein, as we’ve seen in the news, isn’t really helpful.” He continued, “I do think that sometime toward the end of June, we are going to see some degree of onion shortages, so we’ll have to see what happens.”
Idaho-E. Oregon/Washington/Imperial Valley, CA:
Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce reported from his Nyssa, OR, office on May 6. “Well, we finished up in Idaho-E. Oregon last Friday,” he said. “And contrary to others, we did not have to dump any of our onions.” Jason said that there are still a few shipments coming out of Washington. “We have a few shipments left in Washington, but we are transitioning now to the Imperial Valley, CA,” Jason said. “Joe (Ange) and I will be traveling to the area next week to get a look at the onions, and we understand the quality is very good.” Jason noted that demand this week is steady. “Every week we are seeing foodservice opening up, and that’s a good sign,” he said. “The market is not where we would like it to be, but it’s fairly steady.” On the crop side of things, he said, “We’ve had nice weather, and the Northwest onions are progressing well.”
Rick Greener of Greener Produce in Ketchum, ID, was able to visit with us on May 6 before his appointment to get tested for COVID-19 antibodies. “I think most everyone knows that the Sun Valley area in Idaho was pretty hard hit by the virus,” he said. “We knew people that tested positive and had the virus previously and didn’t even know it. Now, we’re thinking that we may have had the virus early and got through it. Some even think it was back in December when it started to come through here.” On the onion side of things, Rick said that sales have been “pretty random. He added, “Mexico is done, and Texas is wrapping up. We are shipping out of Arizona and Cali and have all sizes and colors, plus organics and Italian reds. We also have some really nice cold storage Northwest onions.” Rick went on to say the market is “all over the board” right now. “It’s tough to say where the market is going,” he said. “What I am telling customers is if they have a certain need, we have access to it, so bring all offers.” He added, “Keep in mind that freight’s not good, and I’m not exactly sure what’s going on. Rates seem to have increased by $1 to $2, depending on the lane. The availability is good, but maybe drivers don’t want to drive with the virus things looming.” Rick said everything changes day by day and added, “While we wait to see what happens, we hope everyone is staying safe, healthy, and happy. So, let’s get this situation solved and get up and get out there!” UPDATE: Before we posted this week’s update, Rick called and said that he had indeed contracted the virus earlier and his test for the antibodies came back positive. Rick credited his ability to sail through the virus to onions. “We here at the Greener house, maintain a healthy diet that includes onions, and we place onion halves throughout the house to absorb the toxins,” Rick said. “Anything to keep these onions moving is a good thing, right?! wink, wink.”
Texas Rio Grande Valley/Chihuahua, Mexico:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco said on May 6 he had shipped his last load out of the Valley on May 5. “We finished yesterday,” he said, noting the deal had started to change a bit during the last few days of his shipping. “The jumbo and medium deals were swapping places as foodservice opens up and there are a few less retail,” he said. On the Mexico whites, Don Ed said, “We will have whites for at least four to six weeks out of Chihuahua. The onions are real pretty, and there is excellent quality and good supplies.”
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission said he has finished in the Rio Grande Valley for the season and is now shipping out of the Wintergarden area from both sides of the river. “We have whites from the Mexico side and yellows and reds from Texas,” he said. “Yields are normal and will get better as we go on. We’ve had only one hot day, and the highs have mostly been in the 80s – very moderate. We have all three colors and are really happy with how things are going.” David said, “Typically we go to June 5-10 from here.”
California San Joaquin Valley:
Maria Lopez, Director of Sales/California for Tat-On Inc., told us on May 6 the Terra Linda Farms summer onion crop in the San Joaquin Valley is looking good, and a June 1 start is anticipated. “We have yellows and reds, and the quality looks very good,” she said, adding there are no whites this year. “The season runs to approximately Aug. 31 and can go two weeks or so into September. It’s different year to year,” Maria explained. Volume is expected to be the same as it was last year, and Maria said, “We’re looking forward to another great season.”
Colorado Western Slope/Utah:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said on May 6 that “everything out West is going good.” Both Colorado and Utah crops are all in and responding to good growing conditions. Colorado is expected to start mid- to late August, and Utah will follow later in the fall.
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission, TX, said his Colorado growers are looking at an on-time crop to start shipping Labor Day, and he said, “The onions are beautiful. They have plenty of water and very good stands. We’ll be at about the same numbers we’ve had the past few years, and this year we’ll have one-stop shopping with everything shipping out of one location in Delta.”