Featured image courtesy of Michael Locati with Pacific Agra Farms in Walla Walla, WA
California Imperial Valley:
John Vlahandreas with Wada Farms reported this week from the Troy Caston shed in Brawley. “We are off to a great start,” John said. “The line is working extremely well. We made some adjustments this season that really have made a difference. We are packing all the sizes and colors, and the quality has been very nice.” He continued, “We all know there have been some seeders in the Imperial Valley, but what we have going in the bag is fantastic, and we are able to get those seeders out without a problem.” John said the market is holding for his sales. “Despite what I am hearing from other areas, I am still quoting and selling the prices I have been – so far, so good. We will be going to the end of the month.”
Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce Sales in Parma, ID, was “boots on the ground” in the Imperial Valley on May 8 and reported, “Still down in Southern California visiting Greengo Farms in El Centro and Troy Caston Farms in Calipatria. The onion quality looks excellent with good size.” Dwayne continued, “The remaining fields that will be coming off the next few weeks look to deliver more of the same.”
Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce reported from his sales office in Nyssa, OR, that they finished up their Idaho-Oregon sales last Friday and have made the transition to the Imperial Valley. “We had a good season here and are now selling out of the Imperial Valley,” Jason said. “We are selling all sizes and colors, and demand has been good. Yellows are doing really well. The demand for reds has been decent, and the demand for whites is ‘hit-and-miss’ right now. I would say the market has been steady, and our quality out of the Imperial Valley has been really good.”
Steve Baker with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, told us on May 8 that demand is fair this week. “As each week goes by you have some buyers switching to new crop shipping areas,” Steve said, adding, “We are getting a lot of calls from buyers looking for colossals and super colossals.” The market has been steady this week so far, and availability is good on some colors/sizes and tight on others. “We have good availability on jumbo yellows and very tight supplies on colossals and super colossal,” he said. “We still have mixer quantities available on reds. Quality has been very good coming out of cold storage.” Steve said at this point he thinks there are four Treasure Valley packers still shipping on the fresh market, and he said Baker & Murakami hopes to finish packing next week.
Ryan Stewart with Fort Boise Produce in Parma, ID, said that operation is “still rolling and will be going a few more weeks.” He said Fort Boise is out of whites and “just about out of reds” but still packing all sizes of yellows. “Quality is holding up well,” he said. “We had more cold storage this year.”
Texas Rio Grande Valley/Mexico:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, told us May 8 his crews will clip the last 80 acres in the coming days. “We should be half done with it tomorrow evening. There’s rain in the forecast for Friday. We hope the weathermen are wrong, but it looks like it will do it.” If it does rain, he said, the remaining acres will be clipped later. “And if it doesn’t rain, we could finish up the season next week.” He said the market has taken a slide recently, the result of “too many onions.” He added, “Business has been a little slow, but there are some Texas guys finishing this weekend and more finishing next week. I think the market will bottom out today and tomorrow and take a positive spin next week.” Don Ed said, “California is coming in, and Idaho-Oregon is slowing down. Texas is starting to decrease, and I don’t see any other areas picking it up right away.” He said the white deal has fallen off. “New areas have started up in Mexico, and there are also whites available in Texas, but the glut of whites has pushed through the system, and we expect a more orderly market next week.” Don Ed said The Onion House “will have whites into June. We’ll finish Texas altogether next week and will have Chihuahua whites after that.”
John Harris with Paradigm Fresh in Fort Morgan weighed in on Monday, May 6, saying, “This will be an active week I believe. The weather is nice most places in the country, and we have Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday. Most of the middle class got a paycheck last week, food stamp type benefits should be refilling and all of those things will lead to good activity back to our markets.” He continued, “I think the market will continue to be a little soft on most items. At this point the white onion market is a pure guess not only buy buyers but also from shippers deciding on when to cut bait and keep moving. And we should see a steady decline on whites all week.” John said that reds “are soft but somewhat stable, and yellows are pretty much in the same boat.” And, he said on Monday, “There are some very cheap deals on storage crop yellows for anyone still interested. We are moving along in Fort Morgan and have a few supplies on hand. We’ll be all California new crop onions by week’s end.”
Jason Vee with Vee’s Marketing in Superior, WI, checked in this week with to tell us, “My barometer of shipper calls vs. customer calls tells me there is blood in the water today. We are in a market decline. White onions are in the most trouble.” He said, “We held it much longer than expected, but it’s on the way back down now. Keep in mind that weather can firm this back up, and there are six days of rain in the McAllen, TX, forecast.” Further West, he said, “The forecast for Imperial Valley looks much better; highs around 90, double digit winds, and no rain. Those are exceptional harvest conditions. Expect lots more pressure on California those days next week when Texas can only sell what’s already under cover.” And Jason looked at the Southeast as well, saying, “On the other side of the U.S., Vidalia onions are doing their best to hold ranks and keep that 40# carton sweet market at $20. They have three weeks before onions go into storage. I think we see some $18s before it’s over in light of the market decline on onions overall. I’m not a powerhouse on Vidalia onions, so take this with a grain of salt. But the interest in Vidalia onions in my office is down significantly.” Jason said he does have “any clever answers for the decline in interest,” but he noted, “It’s probably more complex than just one thing. Freight is a factor for everything west of Minnesota. Starting after Easter was a misstep. And I suspect the loss of interest is mostly because we sell sweet onions from almost everywhere in the country. I have much better success with Heavenly Sweets out of Washington, Texas 1015s and Sweet Perfection boxes out of New Mexico. But, like I said, I’m no Vidalia powerhouse. Someone out there might be having their best Vidalia sweet onion season ever, and I’m just missing it.”
Michael Locati with Pacific Agra Farms in Walla Walla told us on May 8 the 2019 crop of Walla Walla Sweets is “going good.” He said, “We’re pouring water on ‘em – the forecast is for 90 degrees this weekend.” He said the onions are bulbing, and he noted, “The transplants are taking off.” The projected start date is between June 10-14, and Michael said a slightly later start to the spring seeded planting will extend the season somewhat. “We’ll definitely go through late August,” he said.
Grant Kitamura with Baker and Murakami Produce Co. in Ontario, OR, provided us with a May 7 photo of the progressing crop. “Everything looks great,” he said. “All of our onions were planted within the normal window for planting, and the stands look really good so far. We have had good ground moisture and nice warm weather. Now, we will start irrigating and wait and see how they take off. We expect to have adequate supplies to start the season with early onions in August with our storage varieties to follow.”
Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce Sales in Parma, ID, was in the Imperial Valley of California when he gave us the update on Champion’s fields in the Treasure Valley of Idaho-Eastern Oregon. “In Idaho our planting was spread way out with all the wet weather interruptions, but our stands look good for the most part with some of the later fields we planted that are just about to push through the dirt. Irrigation is in full swing and we will see what Mother Nature has in store for us the next few months. We feel very fortunate on our farms compared to some in the valley.”
Ryan Stewart with Fort Boise Produce in Parma, ID, said the crop is all in and looking good. “The weather has been good, and we haven’t had any major storms,” Ryan said, noting the Fort Boise program has not changed for the 2019-20 shipping season.
Colorado Western Slope/Utah:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said his growers in Western Colorado and Utah are all in with their new crops, and he added, “Now the onions just need to grow.”