Michael Locati with Walla Walla River Packing and Storage in Walla Walla said on Sept. 26 that operation is packing hybrids now, with reds, whites and yellows all moving well. “It’s mostly reds and whites and also Mayan Sweets,” he said. The sweets will run into the new year, slowing down in February, he said. And in summarizing the Walla Walla Sweet season, which wrapped up in late August/early September, the principal in Pacific Agra Farms in Walla Walla said, “Overall it was great crop with tremendous yields.”
Jared Gutierrez with Columbia Basin Onion in Hermiston reported that demand and the market are a little off this week. “I think a lot of the reason has to do with harvest structure,” he said. “Everyone is trying to make room for their onions, which has contributed to the slow-up. In a couple of weeks, it’s going to be a different story. When the barn doors shut, I think we’re going to see the market strengthen.” Jared said that CBO will be wrapping up harvest within about a week. “We are in great shape harvest-wise,” he said. “We are getting the onions in a timely manner.” Jared noted that the heat took its toll in July and August. “It’s been tough for the whole region,” he said. “We saw the effects of the heat across the board, especially in the early onions. As we get into our long day varieties, we are seeing quality improve.” Jared said export opportunities could take the pressure off the domestic market. “The Asian export opportunities seem to be much better than last year,” he commented. “And when you look at the situation in Europe and some crop issues there, increased export opportunities may have a positive effect for us here in the U.S. It really is a true statement to say there are good reasons to have optimism about the season moving forward.” OnionBusiness.com also learned that CBO will be first-time exhibitors at this year’s PMA expo in Orlando, FL, Oct. 19 and 20 in Booth 991, and of course we will be there to cover the Columbia Basin Onion expo experience.
Dan Phillips with Central Produce Distributing reported Sept. 26 that demand continues to be steady. “Boy, we are really movin’,” Dan said. “It’s been steady all along. Even when the East Coast slowed up with the hurricane, there were other areas that picked up the slack, so we really didn’t even feel the effects.” Dan said the market for Central is holding. “The market for mediums is really good, as well as for reds and whites. While we are holding our price for the larger stuff, we have had inquiries to go lower. We’re holding.” When asked about the storage harvest, Dan said, “Our farmers are going like the wind, but like a lot of Treasure Valley packers, we are really struggling on labor here at the shed. We had a whole crew that didn’t show up one day. This is really becoming an industry-wide problem. It’s frustrating.” We also asked Dan about his take on the rail for the season. “You know, we really haven’t started a lot with rail quite yet. The early stuff we don’t ship by rail for the open market, but once we starting shipping a lot of storage varieties, we’ll need cars. Fingers crossed… I’ll let you know.”
Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce in Nyssa, OR, told us on Sept. 26 that demand this week is very good. “Demand is very good for yellows, but I have to say that demand is still steady for reds and whites too, so we’re doing well across the board,” he said. “The market is steady on reds and whites, but it has weakened a bit on yellows.” Jason said Eagle Eye/Fiesta Farms will be harvesting the Treasure Valley storage for a couple more weeks. “Harvest for us has really been going well,” he said. “The quality is absolutely excellent.” Jason commented that transportation continues to be tight. “Sure, transportation is tight, but we are getting through it.”
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said his Colorado Western Slope onion deal is “steady as she goes,” with what he described as “softer market undertones.” Don Ed added pricing is off from where it was a week ago, but the region continues to take advantage of truck availability not shared by all areas.
Bob Sakata with Sakata Farms in Brighton told us Sept. 26 that Sakata Farms is grading and shipping whites now and will start its yellow storage shipments in October. “The whites look good, and the price is good,” Bob said. “The yellows look good, but the market is terrible.”
Rick Greener with Greener Produce in Ketchum, ID, told us Sept. 26, “Today things have been a little slow. We had a good start on Monday, but things are little quiet this morning, and we’re waiting for it to pick back up.” Rick said the market is steady. “I’ll be honest – there are a few customers that would like the market to be weaker, but it’s still holding steady with the exception of whites. The market for whites is a little soft this week.” Rick said the quality of his shipments is very good. “We’re starting to get into storage onions that are more hearty with nice skins. Quality is getting better every day,” he said, noting he’s shipping out of Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Colorado. When asked about transportation, Rick said trucks have been calling in. “It’s unusual, but yeah, trucks have been calling looking for loads,” he said. “Now, that doesn’t mean rates have changed, but maybe since business has slowed up a little, trucks are looking around. It’s really hard to say. Of course, this will be short lived. It will all change when the holiday business starts up.” Rick also mentioned that his business overall has been doing exceptionally well. “With this unexpected rapid growth, we are looking to expand our team,” he said.
Michael Locati with Pacific Agra Farms said the fall planting for 2019 Walla Walla Sweets season was completed earlier in September, and the onions are out of the ground and “growing slowly with the cooler weather.” He added that growers are doing additional prepping before the crop goes dormant. The Walla Walla start date is traditionally in June, and the season runs to late August or early September.
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said the Corinne, UT, onion deal will start up in two weeks. “Half of the crop is in the barn,” he said. “They’ll start shipping mid-October, and the guys are telling me the quality is really good after a spectacular fall harvest season.”
Texas Rio Grande Valley:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco said his growers will start planting the 1015s on Oct. 5, adding, “We need some dry weather after good moisture we’ve gotten recently.” Don Ed noted the summer and early fall were especially dry, but the region has received rain in the past few weeks. He also said growers are planting some new varieties shown to have higher yields, which could result in a slight reduction of acres.
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said on Sept. 26 the crews in Mexico are back in the field planting again after recent rains. He said acreage could be down slightly for the season.
Feature image: WBH Farms red onions. Located in Adrian Oregon