Dan Borer with Keystone Fruit Marketing reported from his Walla Walla, WA, office on Nov. 13, “Things are shaping up nicely for both our hybrids and Mayan Sweets for Thanksgiving. We had good sales last week, and they continue to mount this week as normal. Thanksgiving sales should peak next week. Typically, buyers are focused on the ‘hardware’ like potatoes and onions early so they can move to the veg and more perishable stuff later. This year, there is a real concern about the potato market and sizing, so it seems that buyers aren’t worried as much about onions as they are about getting their potato programs covered.” Dan added that the onion market is steady. “There isn’t much to report there,” he said. “The market seems to be holding and pluggin’ along.” When asked about demand for colors and sizes, Dan said it is “typical,” adding, “It seems that movement is fairly even and is dependent on the region. The Southwest uses more whites, Canada seems to lean toward reds, and the Midwest consumes more yellows this time of year, so it all evens out.” He also Keystone’s Mayan Sweets will be available into February. “We just had a conference call today, and we will have good supplies into February. As usual, the quality on our Peruvians just keeps getting better and better as we get further into the season,” he said.
John Vlhandreas with Wada Farms reported from his office in Salem, OR, this week, saying, “There has been a good push this week for Thanksgiving, but next week we’ll see the big rush. Then we’ll see demand taper off because people in the industry will be taking off for Thanksgiving week. It’s been a little hit and miss on what buyers are ordering depending on what they want and where they want it.” John said the market is lower than it should be. “You know, there was a scare there for a bit on where storages were going to be, but we are past that. Now that all the harvesting is done and everything is in the barn, it looks like anyone who has onions has decent quality. And I am not just talking about Idaho-Oregon and Washington. New York, Wisconsin, and basically any onion region’s quality right now is decent.” He continued, “When it comes to marketing, while there are a few exceptions out there, the mindset of most sellers is that with overall decent onions, the prices need to be higher in order for everyone to make money. That said, there is a lot of optimism for the market to trend upward.” On transportation, John said it’s the best it’s been for several years. “So far, trucks have been easy to find and fairly affordable. I hope it stays that way. It makes life a whole lot easier.”
Steve Baker with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, told us on Nov. 13 that demand this week matches that of previous weeks. He said, “We are supplying to the same customers every week, and so far this week demand is greater for medium yellows than others sizes. The demand on all other sizes has been steady.” As for the Thanksgiving pull, Steve said, “We haven’t really seen an increase in Thanksgiving business from the past few weeks.” But he said the market remains steady. “We are not seeing any changes in the market at this time. After looking at the National Onion Association report showing the lowest nationwide holdings in the past five years I would hope as an industry we would see the opportunities to market accordingly,” he commented. And he said Baker & Murakami has good availability on yellows, whites and reds, and Steve said, “Quality has been very good!” Trucks “for most of the country are adequate,” he said, adding, “Trucks are tight going back to the East Coast.”
Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce Sales in Parma, ID, said on Nov. 13, “How can we not be positive about what lies ahead for this market? Recently released National Onion Association numbers are exhibit A! Exhibit B would be near or over 400 loads a day shipped per the USDA report. Looks like to me the supply and demand curve are in check.” He continued, “Steady price increases should be in our future, nothing fearful, just a good solid market for everyone. My customers keep telling me get the price up. They follow that by stating, ‘We made more money this summer on onions than we have in a long time.’ Good solid prices, decent supply and fantastic quality are a win for everyone, and I think that is what lies ahead.” And, Dwayne said, “According to our own internal data in 2009 and 2012, when total stocks on hand were similar to this year’s NOA stats, the average price on jumbo yellows for the season was over $11/bag. Given where we are in price and season, we need to make some steady gains to get there, but sure looks achievable.” He said that over the last few weeks, as he’s read the reports, “I have been shocked when people on the sales desk say price is the same. That is correct as far as price we are invoicing and receiving at the shed level but completely false in terms of grower returns. Nov. 1 permanent storage charges kicked in, so now the growers are actually making about 50 cents less a bag than they previously were. You would think it would be our job to automatically raise the price 50 cents a bag when costs go up, but for some reason it didn’t happen. At this point a 50-cent increase would actually just keep the returns even to the grower.” Dwayne said, “All things said, it’s time for good things to happen in terms of price for our growers.” And, he concluded, “On another bright note, we started production in Utah today at Triple J Produce. This will allow us to meet the transportation shortages for our customers as we move into the holiday season.”
Colorado Western Slope/Utah:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, told us Nov. 13 that the Western Colorado and Utah onion seasons are “moving along well.” He said, “Movement is good, and quality is very good. Everything is basically status quo, and business is good.” Don Ed said the traditional Thanksgiving pull hadn’t started yet but that he expects it to hit next week.
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission, TX, said on Nov. 13 his Colorado Western Slope onions are seeing good movement. “Movement is good across the board, and I think that’s attributable to the upcoming holidays and also the changing weather,” he said. “This time of year, the weather brings about different cooking styles, a lot more stews and soups,” he added. The market is also up slightly, and David said that could also be attributed to Thanksgiving.
Rick Greener with Greener Produce in Ketchum, ID, told us on Nov. 13 that the Thanksgiving pull has arrived. “Business has really picked up,” he said. “It started moving pretty heavy on Monday, and everything is in demand across the board from retails packs to all colors and sizes. We are moving onions out of Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Colorado and Michigan, and the quality has been excellent. The market is steady, and while pricing isn’t great, if you think about it at this time last year prices were lower – so we are getting above those now, and it’s not bad and we are hoping it just gets better.” Rick said truck rates are getting pricier, noting, “Trucks are available, but there are definitely some lanes going up.” And he added, “Hey, but on another note, if anyone has a line on pinto beans, call me! I guess North Dakota lost 50 percent of their crop, and there is significant demand out there.”
Texas Rio Grande Valley:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco said on Nov. 13 the Rio Grande Valley had experienced “unusually cold” weather, but he said, “It’s no problem this time of year.” He said on Nov. 12 the high in the Valley was 39F, adding, “About 90 percent of what is planted is up to good stands.”
Texas Rio Grande Valley/Winter Garden:
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission said the Rio Grande Valley is planted. “Everything is in the ground,” he said. The recent cooler weather, he added, is giving way to warmer temps later in the week. David also said planting will begin in the Winter Garden area on Monday, Nov. 18. “We’ll be finished planting Dec. 4-5, and these dates are all normal for the region,” he said. “The acreage in Winter Garden is about the same as last year, and the Rio Grande Valley is up a bit, from what I hear.”
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said on Nov. 13 the Tampico growing region had missed the cold weather that affected parts of Texas. “They are finishing their transplants this week, and my field manager tells me this is the prettiest crop he’s seen in years. They’ve had perfect weather so far.”
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission, TX, said his growers in Mexico have finished planting seed, with just a bit of transplants remaining. The weather has been good, he said, and he said he’s not heard of any increase in acreage.
John Vlahandreas with Wada Farms reported on the new crop and planting in “the desert” this week. “Everything has been planted and the weather has been good,” John said. “There were some reports of cold weather around Coachella, but it didn’t make it over to the onion areas. Even if it gets a little colder, it doesn’t really matter because everything is underground right now.” John said overall plantings in the Imperial Valley appear to be down. “Even with growers from out of the area coming in, the overall consensus is that plantings are still down. We don’t have the exact number, but we’ll have to see as we get further along. We do expect a good season and market though because it doesn’t look like there will be a huge carryover from the storage guys.”