Featured image: Eastern Oregon onion harvest, courtesy of Dallin Klingler with Eagle Eye Produce in Idaho Falls, ID
John Vlahandreas with Wada Farms reported to us on Oct.6 from his Salem, OR, office. “Demand isn’t horrible,” John said. “It’s pretty steady. You know, it’s been very interesting. Instead of giving them away, as usual, I think actually paying for an onion may becoming the new normal. At these prices, some buyers are taking a half load instead of a full load this week because they don’t want to get stuck if the market drops. But this might be the start of a new day where you just have to pay for it cause it’s not dropping, and growers are going to actually start getting some return.” He continued, “We’ll also see how it all shakes out on the storage end of things, too. We are all waiting to see everyone’s numbers from the NOA. We’ll see how the reports come in. Don’t get me wrong, I want everyone to do well, but I also hope we remember… we’re so smart, come springtime, we can kill the market in a matter of a couple of days if we’re not careful here.”
Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce in Nyssa, OR, provided his report on Oct. 6. “Demand is steady this week,” Jason said. “It’s slowed down some from last week, but movement is still good across the board on all sizes and colors. Reds are still hot! If you can find medium or jumbo reds, you better take ‘em. If you have them, set your price.” He continued, “There are more larger onions out there now. Growers are running into larger lots. We have availability in jumbos, of course, but we also have availability in colossal and supers as well.” Jason said Eagle Eye growers’ harvest is coming to a close. “We anticipate being done with harvest by the end of the week,” he said. On transportation, Jason noted, “Well, I would like to say that transportation is getting better, but it’s not. We’ve been loading flatbeds, but that’s going to start getting dicey. It’s just an issue everyone has to tackle daily.” Many thanks to Eagle Eye’s Dallin Klingler for sending a harvest photo gallery complete with Eagle Eye’s Joe Ange juggling a few jumbo yellows.
Rick Greener with Greener Produce in Ketchum told us on Oct. 6 that sales this week are a “little doggy.” He said, “Honestly, it’s a little slow. There’s not a whole lot of product out there, and if it’s true what I’m hearing, there are some pretty significant losses that we need to keep a heads up on. Right now, we’re moving product out of Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Colorado, Michigan and North Dakota, if loads out of there work for ya.” He continued, “Of what we are moving this week, the big stuff continues to be in good demand and a strong market, and reds are still hot with a strong market as well. There is still an abundance of mediums, and growers in Michigan and New York have their own so they aren’t looking to other areas for a lot of other supplies. Storage quality is very good with nice tight skins.” On transportation, Rick said, “I wish it was getting better, but as always, it’s not.”
Dwayne Fisher with Champion Produce Sales in Parma, ID, reported in on Oct. 6, saying, “As we roll into the first of October, the barn doors are being secured for the winter – but in reality many never even opened.” He said, “Harvest will continue to trickle in for a few of the larger growers in the valley due to the incredibly tight labor situation. We just haven’t had the ability to run as many unloading stations as we would typically, due to the fact that we can’t hire people even at the highest per-hour rates we have ever paid out.” Also, Dwayne said, “We have implemented and invested in the newest technologies at these unloading stations, and that has helped with cutting back on labor, but some positions need able bodies.” He went on to say, “In terms of market we are heading in the right direction for our farms and growers with sales on jumbo yellows at 30 cents a lb. and trending higher. I throw out the per-pound price often because it is a good reminder of how reasonably priced our product is at today’s market.” Dwayne added, “There is a lot of room for increase, and the bottom line is our growers need it to meet their costs and investments of growing.” He continued, “Speaking of investments, right now on our farms we are already preparing for next year’s crop. Those expenses, which will be thousands of dollars per acre, will come due in the next 60 days. The amount of investment that is laid out over a year in advance in our onion operations in the Northwest seems to be overlooked, and we certainly don’t figure in as much as we should on the need to get a return on that investment. I am optimistic that this year will help us get a new mindset on what good returns are for our farms and growers.” And about transportation, Dwayne said, “Freight remains the same – they need drivers! This Sunday our church, in cooperation with local civic leaders and other faith congregations, is holding a day of fasting and prayer for drought relief this winter. I invite everyone to join in. Our valley is in dire need of this moisture for next year’s crops, including our onions.”
Matt Murphy with L&M Companies in Raleigh, NC, told us on Oct. 6 that demand remains good this week. “Demand is steady across all colors and sizes this week,” Matt said. “The demand is not as robust as the last time we talked a couple of weeks ago, but movement is good, and the market is strong. Actually, we are in a good place now. We have good pricing. No one is complaining. Movement is steady and we are pretty excited about the season moving forward.” Matt said harvest is nearly complete in Warden, WA. “The Jensens in Warden have about another week to 10 days of harvest,” he said. “Derek Ennis and I will be traveling to Washington next week, and I’ll have a better idea about what we will have as far as storage for the season goes, but right now everything we are shipping out of Warden is storage stuff, and the quality is very good.” Matt noted that L&M’s Colorado and Kansas programs have a few weeks to go, and they will be wrapping up. “With the freight advantage out of the Colorado and Kansas areas, we’ve been able to get a little higher pricing,” Matt said, “and we have been able to load all kinds of equipment with the mild weather out of Warden. But when October rolls around, we all know what that means… here comes the dreaded November, and freight just gets worse, so we just have to get ready for it.”
Colorado Western Slope:
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in McAllen, TX, told us on Oct. 6 the Western Colorado deal continues to see good demand and quality. “We’re finishing our earlier stuff this week, and we’ll take the weekend off and then start all three colors out of storage on Monday,” David said of onions from his Delta-area growers. “Markets are a little stronger each week, and movement is steady,” he noted of the pipeline’s supplies. David also said that Mexico is looking like a good market. “For the next 30 to 45 days Mexico might be a consumer of U.S. onions,” he said. “They have had bad weather, and their stocks are low.” David said, “I’m not sending any myself, what I’ve heard is that reds and small yellows are going well there.”
Doug Bulgrin with Gumz Farms in Endeavor, WI, told us on Oct. 6 that Gumz is done with harvest. “We completed harvest, and everything is in the barn,” he said. “Quality is looking very good, and we are fortunate. We had a pretty average year as far as yields go.” On this week’s demand, Doug said, “For us, we have had above-average demand this week, and the market is increasing too. We are seeing good demand on mediums, but jumbo reds and yellows are a hot ticket right now.” He added, “I also think our heavy demand has a lot of it has to do with our location. We really do have a big freight advantage, so things are looking really good.”
Robert Bell with Western Onion in Camarillo, CA, provided us with some interesting recent information from the European Market Weekly. During the last week of September, the German Market was seeing onions heavily promoted, but retail demand was slightly weakened, down 2 percent from a five-year average and 9 percent from the previous week. Netherlands exports were described as behind planning and expectations, although prices were slightly higher for graded onions. Dutch exports were down 14 percent from the previous year and 8 percent from a five-year average, the report said. The number-one export market for the week was the Ivory Coast. Austria’s harvest was said to be progressing well, and domestic demand was called “satisfactory.” Exports were reported to be quiet. France’s harvest was nearly completed. Prices in Poland were “stable” and had risen 18 percent since the start of the month. Harvest is continuing. In Spain the market had not changed from the previous week, and in the UK, after weather interruptions, the harvest had started up again. Moldova had seen rain in spring and summer, and producers were working to finish harvest as quickly as they could. In Russia prices had fallen, and demand had weakened. South Africa was experiencing an oversupply, the report said.