Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing in Walla Walla reported on Oct. 31that Keystone’s Northwest Sweet program is running at a consistent pace. “The quality of the sweets in the Northwest is very good, and we are receiving normal business,” he said. “Demand has been good, and the market is steady for our sweets out of the Northwest.” Dan said Keystone’s hybrid quality has also been very good. “We had excellent harvest weather, and the quality is excellent. To date, the movement has been very good, and while pricing has been lower than where we want it, there is a lot of reason to be optimistic about the market and demand moving forward. The industry as a whole is poised for a very good holiday season. The key for shippers is timing. You have to make sure there is adequate pack time needed to fill all of the orders for the holidays and put the proper promotions in place so you can capitalize on what is traditionally a very busy time of year starting now.”
Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce Sales in Parma, ID, weighed in on Oct. 31, saying, “My kids were excited to dress up today for Halloween. They said, ‘Dad, what are you going to dress up as?’ I thought for a moment and said, ‘Maybe I’ll dress up as our farm’s Income Statement. ‘How are you going to do that?’ they asked. I said, ‘I will just wear all red!’ They asked, ‘How is that our farm’s Income Statement?’ ‘Well guys, it means we spent more money growing the crops than what we are selling them for.’ Then they asked, ‘Why would you do that?’ I changed the subject at that point.” Dwayne went on to say, “Not much has changed in the market, but things continue to accumulate on the expense side of the old P/L. Storage charges kick in tomorrow, seed companies are floating the buzz that their costs are up and they are going to need to raise onion seed price for 2019, equipment costs are not going down, and labor is historically high. So what does all this have to do with the market? Without profitable farms, we don’t need packing sheds, or sales companies or brokers.” But, he added, “On a very positive note our onions are absolutely spectacular! We have a crop that should extend our season and keep our shrink figures very low, which helps the bottom line. We also started shipping out of Triple J Produce in Honeyville, UT, this week, just in time for the holiday truck tightening and demand. Mediums appear to be the bright spot in this market if you have any.” And, Dwayne said, “Don’t get me wrong – we love what we do, we love our sheds and selling onions, but we also love our farms and growers and know our jobs only exist if we keep them in business.” He added a “Fun fact of the week,” saying, “We have fewer onions of this crop today, Nov. 1, than we did in August/September when the market was a couple of dollars higher.”
Chris Woo with Owyhee Produce in Nyssa, OR, said on Oct. 31 that all Owyhee’s onions are off the ground and in storage. He said, “Quality is good, sizing is large and we’re packing all three colors. Movement is steady. But fresh market demand is not that brisk.” Commenting on the upcoming holiday season, he said, “We haven’t seen anyone pulling heavier yet. I hope they don’t wait until the last minute.”
Grant Kitamura with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, told us on Halloween, “The market is not where we’d like it to be. Movement is good, and volume is normal. Quality is excellent. We got rain in mid-October, and the onions developed a beautiful skin.” He said Baker & Murakami’s Treasure Valley crop is 99.9 percent in storage now.
Jessica Peri with Peri & Sons in Yerington told us late last week, “We will finally have a little breathing room next week as all onions will be under roof. The yellow market is soft, but we anticipate pricing to firm up within the next few weeks.” Jessica added, “Export has been decent, but it has been difficult to compete as there is really competitive pricing available from the Northwest. We have not been able to capitalize as much due to the price point.”
Colorado Western Slope and Utah:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, told us the recent freeze on Colorado’s Western Slope hit some regions hard, but his Olathe grower, John Harold, came through with minimal losses. “Western Colorado is all in the barn, and we’re cranked up and have been rolling all week. Movement is good, and we have a good mix of sizes and colors.” Don Ed said business has been “adequate, especially Wednesday through Friday, and we think that will continue into the holidays. Hopefully, it will perk the market up.” About the weather, he said, “The freeze for Olathe wasn’t as bad as it was forecast to be. And the weather following was perfect. It warmed up slowly. Some areas lost more onions, but John Harold came through OK.” Don Ed said the Corinne, UT, shipping season got started on Monday, and he noted, “We are running all three colors. We’ve loaded a few, and we look for business to build.”
Bob Sakata with Sakata Farms in Brighton told us on Oct. 31 the recent freeze that affected much of the state didn’t hurt Sakata onions, which were still in the ground. “Rob has been working day and night getting the onions harvested,” Bob said of his son, Sakata Farms owner Robert Sakata. “We still have about 80 acres to come in.” He said when the freeze hit, Sakata Farms’ onions hadn’t been lifted. “So we’re OK.” He added, “Everything looks good… except the market.”
Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing in Walla Walla, WA, told us Keystone’s Peruvian program is gaining momentum for demand. “Though we started out a little light, the Peruvian deal is now at full production,” he said. “We have a good crop with nice quality, and there is the necessary volume needed going into the holidays. We are seeing consistent pricing, into the high teens. Right now it’s at $17 to $18, and we expect a very good holiday season.”
Jason Vee with Vee’s Marketing in Superior, WI, wrote on Oct. 31, “It’s the calm before the storm. Thanksgiving is three weeks away. Stores are stocked a week in advance. There is a week or so of transit time for the cross-country routes. That means retail chains are dropping big orders starting this weekend. Expect consumer sizes to be scarce next week. They were on the scarce side already.” And all that, he said, “should translate to market increases. I hope it does. We need the volatility. It’s difficult to make any money in flat markets.”
Jason went on to discuss retail, noting, “I was just doing some research about trending up and down foods for 2018. On my home front, my wife talked me into doing the Whole30 diet. I’m a sucker for fad diets and fitness trends. I like short-term goals. Whole30 is an exclusionary diet: no bread, grains, beans, sugars, booze. So, it’s awful. Onions are allowed, which is why this commentary is relevant to onion markets.”
Taking it up a notch, he said, “I looked up the most popular diets of 2018 and https://www.cooksmarts.com/articles/the-most-popular-diets-defined/ had compiled a top 10. Onions are permissible in nine of the 10. The only exception is the Low-FODMAP Diet, which I had never heard of.”
Here’s what Jason found in diets and how onions factor in:
Keto – Yes, limited amounts.
Paleo – Yes.
Whole30 – Yes.
Vegan – Yes. This one is obvious.
MIND Diet – Yes
Low-FODMAP Diet – No.
Weight Watchers – Yes
Atkins Diet – Yes
Flexitarian Diet – Yes
Cook Smarts Diet – Yes
He said, “That’s great news for onion people. Even in the world of trendy diets, onions have very low economic elasticity.”
California and Texas:
Jessica Peri with Peri & Sons in Yerington, NV, said the California onions are going in the ground. “Planting in El Centro and Firebaugh has begun,” she said. “Weather is cooperating. South Texas is supposed to be planting now but can’t due to rain.”
South Texas and Mexico:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said crews are back in the fields and “have made up a lot of ground” after recent rains.” He added, “We will finish up here this week.” In the Tampico region of Mexico, crews are finishing planting this week, he said.
Mexico, Texas, Georgia:
Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing in Walla Walla, WA, provided an early update on crop progress for multiple Southern regions. “First off, it is just too early to speculate on what is going to happen in Mexico, Texas, and Georgia,” he said. “The hurricane that struck Mexico will certainly impact the crop moving forward. Now, what that means, no one is in a position to say what the outcome will be. But a region can’t get that much water and not be affected by it. Texas is similar. We are really going to have to wait for what kind of impact the increased moisture will have. With Georgia, the rain Georgia’s had early on has a much lower effect on a crop than say getting 30 inches of rain in March. Statistically speaking, these storms and hurricanes are continuing to grow regarding severity, and that’s something to pay attention to, but again, it really is too early to make assumptions about the spring onion crops. We will just have to wait and see.”