With few exceptions here and there, the year that just ended was not a barn-burner for the onion prices. The market was most often described as “steady,” not super but not a complete train wreck, either. So in an effort to better tell the story of 2018, we’ve gone through our weekly market and crop reports and gleaned the highlights. Here for your perusal is The Year That Was.
We started off 2018 with reports of good demand for Northwest onions, with tighter supplies in Oregon. Prices were steady, not on the rise. Idaho-Eastern Oregon had a lot of orders, but transportation issues were slowing movement in some cases. East Coast shippers reported a leveling off of the market, and the Great Lakes region said demand was fair, with transportation a struggle.
The crop reports in early January included news out of Georgia that a half-foot of snow had fallen but that the crops were fine.
Mid-January market reports told of tight transportation and steady demand that was lower than the holiday pull. Wisconsin was one exception, with a shipper noting a very busy period due to covering loads that couldn’t be delivered from the West. Colorado was in good shape for the season, with one shipper 75 percent through his storage crop. Idaho-Eastern Oregon was experiencing slower demand and continued transportation shortages. Nevada reported both good movement and good pricing; Washington said the market had slowed. Mexico was gearing up.
Mid-January crops were seeing good weather in S. California; parts of the San Joaquin Valley were waiting for the ground to dry out. New Mexico was progressing very well, and the Texas Rio Grande Valley was expected to “wake up” within the month.
Late January markets saw normal demand for Washington, and of course, transportation was the major factor in movement. Idaho-Eastern Oregon reported consistent demand and a steady market. E-Logs, truck shortages, and freight rates were the topic of conversation, although some shippers noted an easing in transportation. The cost of trucks was still high, but availability was better, and that made movement better as well. Mexico continued to pick up, and Peru came in.
Crop news for the latter part of January was that Texas was awaiting warm weather; Georgia could be slightly delayed.
Early February markets reports indicated a slight dip in demand for Oregon. Washington/Oregon reported steady sales; Idaho-Eastern Oregon noted a slowing after a big Super Bowl weekend. Trucks were at better rates in IEO. Mexico had seen some cooler weather, which slowed the northern Tampico start a bit; one shipper said the market was slow for produce as a whole. The Great Lakes also reported slower demand and a tightening up on some colors.
Crop news the first part of February was that the South Texas crop was progressing more slowly than normal as cooler weather prevailed, but the crop was described as looking very good. Mild weather in the Treasure Valley of Idaho-Eastern Oregon allowed some growers to prepare for planting; Oregon was reporting a very nice overwintered crop after a mild winter. Planting in the Imperial Valley was going on, and New Mexico continued to weigh in with very positive crop reports.
Mid-February market news out of Idaho-Eastern Oregon was that demand was moderate and the market was steady. Transportation was better, and inventory was manageable and promotable. Mexico had yet to come in with big volume due to cooler weather, but movement was expected to pick up. Wisconsin was seeing steady movement and pricing on medium yellows; New York reported the best movement in reds and whites, with steady demand and what was termed as a “flat” market. Truck rates were a bit lower.
Our mid-February crop updates indicated Arizona was on schedule for late April, and Idaho-Eastern Oregon reported some early planting. The Rio Grande Valley still saw some cool weather, but the forecast was for warming temps; first loads were expected to ship in early April.
Late February market reports were of increasing demand for Washington and anticipation for the Easter pull. Pricing was termed “disappointing.” Idaho-Eastern Oregon cited moderate demand that was picking up, and freight quotes were down. Demand was picking up for Mexico, and buyers were switching to new crop. Transportation was said to be better.
In the crop news of late February, the Rio Grande Valley crop was doing well although still a bit later than normal. Imperial Valley was progressing very well; Bakersfield had good stands that were expected to be ready for harvest in June. Washington was expecting to get in the fields around March 5; Idaho-Eastern Oregon was looking at March to start planting in earnest. Georgia said the crop was down on stands due to the freeze, but onions were looking good and warm temps were moving things along.
The Market news report of early March was that business was steady in Oregon, but prices had not increased. Demand for Idaho-Eastern Oregon was off initially but then picked up, with Mexico affecting some markets. Trucks were easier to book; railcars not readily available. Nevada sources called the year to date a “roller coaster,” with a strong market leading into 2018 and a slowing in demand since then. Mexico was moving all sizes, colors, and packs, and it was expected Mexico would overlap with the Texas 1015s. Some Wisconsin sheds were cleaning up while others planned to go into May; an increase in pricing was anticipated. New York cited good demand.
Crop news out of the Imperial Valley was for an early harvest after the mild winter. The San Joaquin Valley’s overwintered and intermediate onions were planted for June and July harvest, and long days were going in for an August harvest. New Mexico saw 100 percent emergence on spring seeded, and overwintered onions were waking up for an on-time crop to come off the third or fourth week of May. Texas Rio Grande Valley was still a few weeks away from its real start, and the consensus was the crop was the healthiest in many years. Winter Garden was expected to be a week or two later than last year. Walla Walla reported in that the season was setting up to be good, with transplants going in and harvest expected early to mid-June. Idaho-Eastern Oregon guys got into the fields.
Mid-March market news out of Washington was that most shippers were out of whites and were shipping red hybrids and yellows. Some shippers were cleaning up while others expected to go into April and possibly May. Idaho-Eastern Oregon reported consistent shipments and an uptick in demand. Quality remained very good, and both trucks and railcars were in better supply. Texas had some early 1015s shipping in low volume; demand was called “incredibly strong” for Mexican yellows in all sizes. Peru was winding down.
Mid-March crop news out of the Imperial Valley was that the crop was looking “absolutely fantastic.” Idaho-Eastern Oregon was planting; Northern Colorado growers were also planting. Texas Rio Grande Valley was expecting to ship additional onions in late March; Vidalia remained “slightly behind.”
And to wrap up the first quarter report with late March market news, demand was said to be good for the Northwest and Mexico, with a switch to California planned for mid-April. Movement was also said to be good for Idaho-Eastern Oregon, with that area slowing. One Mexico deal was “rolling wide open” on the back side, and a few more Rio Grande Valley 1015s were in the pipeline as the weather warmed up. New York said demand was good and movement “decent.” Wisconsin was looking to run until early May, and Nevada wrapped up the third week of March.
Crop news for late March was that Texas Winter Garden, as the Rio Grande Valley, had a beautiful crop ahead; New Mexico continued to enjoy great weather; Colorado’s Western Slope was starting to plant, as was Utah; Idaho-Eastern Oregon was hitting the good weather windows for planting; and Vidalia was awaiting word on the start date. California onions continued to do well, with the Imperial Valley still a bit early and the San Joaquin Valley planted and healthy. Much of the Treasure Valley was in.
Q2 reports in early April brought news of more NW shippers cleaning up 2017 storage and getting into the fields with 2018 planting. Idaho-Eastern Oregon saw some sheds finishing their shipping season and others with product to go through the month. Mexico was winding down for a few shippers as well, with others looking toward the end of the month before they got out.
April crop news indicated some shippers were transitioning to California, with most planning on a mid-month start. Idaho-Eastern Oregon planting was on schedule – some growers had their entire crop in; some were just about finished. New Mexico was growing well, and shippers were telling us late May, and early June would see onions come out of that region. And in Vidalia, there was what one shipper called “pleasant surprise” at how the crop was turning out after a rather iffy winter. The official start date was set for April 20, and most shippers were champing at the bit with nice onions and eager receivers.
In mid-April California’s Imperial Valley was shipping its first onions. Weather was termed “warm” at that time. One of our Washington shipper friends was selling off the floor in the last days of his 2017 crop, and reports out of Oregon were of good demand and steady movement. Idaho-Eastern Oregon had some guys still shipping all sizes with good quality and plans for an early May clean-up. A South Texas shipper as moving onions out of Mexico and said he’d been in that deal for another couple of weeks, with demand very good and jumbos and colossals moving best. The Rio Grande Valley was midseason, and the open market had seen an uptick – one shipper said quality was outstanding, and because the crop was not a huge one and it came on a bit later, big onions were moving especially well. The guys in the RGV were looking at a mid-to-third-week May finish. Vidalia was in the third-point stance, ready to go. New York was citing good demand, with a rising market on jumbos.
Crop news in mid-April was focusing on additional Imperial Valley onions ready to go, and the Central Valley was also said to be doing well and on track for an early June start. Washington’s overwinters were sizing, and we were told to look for them to start the third week of June. Walla Walla grower/shippers told us that crop was doing very well and right on the money for a mid-June start. Oregon’s overwinters were also looking very good after a mild winter, and many growers were finishing their direct seeding at that time as well. In Idaho-Eastern Oregon some operations were still shipping 2017 onions while planting this year’s crop. The Texas Winter Garden crop was described as beautiful, and shippers were expecting to get rolling the first week of May and going for a month. New York had started its planting.
Late April market news out of California’s Imperial Valley indicated volume was coming on heavy, and all sizes and colors were shipping. In Washington, one shipper was going strong out of Prosser in late April and expected to continue for another few weeks. Idaho-Eastern Oregon guys who were still shipping reported a slowing in demand as new crop areas came on, but quality out of IEO remained very good. The Texas Rio Grande Valley was more than halfway finished. Mexico was either cleaned up or cleaning up, and Winter Garden was gearing up as the RGV slowed down. Vidalia was running with good quality and strong demand. We got our broker’s perspective in late April that indicated lots of onions from lots of areas – but freight costs were keeping demand somewhat lower.
In late April one Northern Colorado grower/shipper was hit by high winds that ripped across the state, but replanting was already in the works. New Mexico was still coming on well, with late May and early June the start range for shippers there. In Arizona, one shipper said he’d start his first loads on April 30, and he reported a nice crop with large sizes. IEO’s onions were in the ground, and one shipper told us the region completed planting in a timely manner and in great conditions.
In market news during early May we heard from a California processor that SoCali was seeing increased volume ship, and the market was described as “rough,” with oversupply in the pipeline continuing. Another IEO shipper had cleaned up and was transitioning to California and Texas, and he said demand was good, and he noted that as the Northwest continued to clean up, prices were expected to climb. Oregon was shipping fresh market yellows and reds through mid-May, with excellent quality. And IEO still had onions going into May, with the region’s 2017-18 shipping season coming to a close. The Rio Grande Valley deal in South Texas was also winding down, with the later maturing onions showing good size and quality. Winter Garden was gearing up to start just after the middle part of May, and shippers were looking at a June 10 finish date for crop that was showing good quality, good yields and good size. Vidalia onions were described as beautiful. Lack of transportation and the electronic logging device continued to be a burr under most regions’ saddles.
Early May’s crop reports described good sizing and quality in the southern reaches of California’s Central Valley, and early June continued to be the target start date. Oregon growers in the Columbia Basin had their onions in, and warm temps were welcomed. Colorado Western Slope onions, along with most Utah onions, were all in and starting to emerge the first week of May. The Northern Colorado crop was coming along well, with emergence as well. One grower north of Greeley was almost finished planting his sets, and he said harvest would start in July. New Mexico onions near Hatch were looking good, both the spring and summer bulbs. Wisconsin was expecting to finish shipping 2017 onions and also finish seeded and transplants for the 2018 crop.
Market news in mid-May for Vidalia and other areas was that the quality was good, harvest was going smoothly, and all sizes were shipping. The market was off a bit, although it had leveled off. New crop shippers continued to watch as areas around the country cleaned up, expecting the market to take an upward turn. The Texas Rio Grande Valley was just a couple of weeks away from wrapping up its 2018 shipping season. Arizona was seeing good quality onions, but poor markets, and the last of the 2017-18 IEO onions were going out. Some Washington shippers were also wrapping up their 2017-18 shipping season, although one shipper said he was moving Washington onions with good quality and expected to continue shipping through the middle of June. California’s Imperial Valley was seeing good demand but a weak market – again the reason was cited as “so many onions out there.” One shipper said he’d been moving onions out of the Imperial Valley for 24 years and had never seen movement as slow as it was this year. Sizing and quality were excellent, he said, but pricing was matching demand.
Crop news in mid-May was that Washington onions were progressing well, with “unusually warm” weather and heat units ahead of last year. Walla Walla was shaping up to have a normal but perhaps early harvest with good heat units bringing the onions on. IEO’s new crop was also said to be doing well, with temps getting into the 80s and stands at about eight inches. New Mexico was eager to get going, with one company anticipating a Memorial Day start. Eastern Colorado and Kansas were looking good with “near perfect weather,” and Western Slope onion growers were describing “one of the prettiest crops ever.”
Market news in late May included a report out of New York by one shipper that his 2017 crop had wrapped up, although “there are still some New York onions out there.” The same shipper told us that older onions were still moving out of New York, Canada and parts of the Northwest, and he said that was causing the slugging demand and “not good” market. What’s more, he added, “Transportation is horrible.” Vidalia was in full swing by the third week of May, and fresh harvest was expected to wrap up in a week or maybe two. Winter Garden, Texas, onions were moving well but “not at very good prices.” One shipper told us the market “hasn’t gone anywhere,” and he said everyone had a good crop. Quality and sizing out of Winter Garden was great, he added. Mexico was seeing a gap, and the market was reported as “still down.” Arizona was reported an uptick in demand on smaller sizes, pre-packs and mediums in what one shipper called an “unstable” market. One Washington shipper finished his 2017-18 season the last week of May, and he called the season “solid.” The Imperial Valley in California was “plagued with heat,” but most reports were that the onions were doing well.
Crop news in late May included a report from Oregon that days were warm and nights were cool. “Perfect.” Onions were coming up nicely. The Northwest, in general, had been seeing very good growing conditions and good sizing of the onions. Northern Colorado continued to see good weather, and most onions were in, including some fields that had to be replanted. New York had a long planting season, one grower/shipper said. He told of rain, followed by sun, followed by rain, which was followed by sun.
Market news in early June included word that Five Points had started shipping with excellent quality. One shipper said demand was good and would be better if there were more trucks. He said the market was a “battle.” Another California shipper told us it was a great time to be a lettuce guy. He said demand hadn’t let up, but there was an oversaturation of supply with ten shipping districts active. New Mexico was moving onions, although one shipper said demand was light – again due to the multiple areas that had onions in the pipeline. One of our New York shippers said demand had increased, and that operation was pulling onions out of California and Texas. The shipper also said it was tough getting trucks to come that direction.
Crop news in early June was that more of the Washington areas were finished planting, and the onions were doing well. IEO’s crop was looking good, and one shipper told us there would be a few more reds this year. Weather was good, and most shippers are expecting normal sizing and normal timing. Western Colorado’s onions had been getting plenty of heat units and “really started to take off.” No crop pressures and everything was on track for an early September harvest for intermediates and late September harvest for storage. New York’s 2018 crop was all in and looking good, with an early September harvest start planned.
Market news in mid-June brought us a three-word exclamation out of the Imperial Valley of California: “Freight is outrageous!” One shipper told us freight was higher than the price of yellows and whites headed east. Too many onions, the shipper said. In the San Joaquin Valley, the crop looked good both in quality and size. Walla Walla was starting to pack, with lots of excitement in that region. New Mexico was about midway through the fall seeded harvest and would start transplants around the first of June, the plan being to avoid any gaps. Price was rough on yellows but strong on reds, and movement and demand were both good. Texas Winter Garden had a week to 10 days remaining, and while movement and quality were good, labor and transportation were both issues. Vidalia was winding down fresh pack loads and transitioning to storage onions. Quality was good, we were told.
Crop news in mid-June included a good report on Nevada – “so far, so good.” Harvest will start in mid-to-late August, with shipping the first week of September. IEO onions were being irrigated, and weather was said to be ideal. Colorado’s Western Slope and Utah onions were both described as “gorgeous.” Peru’s crop was reported to be “progressing normally” and the first loads will arrive in the U.S. in early to mid-August.
Market news the third week of June had a report that white onions coming out of the Brawley area were excellent, and there were reds and yellows still waiting to harvest. But market conditions could cause the onions to stay in the field. One shipper expected to finish harvest around June 23. Central Valley onions were also coming in, with a “huge” organic red crop. Reds were active in most areas. In New York the trucking situation was called “terrible unless you can get one, and then it is fantastic.” Demand was described as “very good” by one New Mexico shipper, and he said his company was handling its transportation issues. He said the market for reds continued to climb, and he also said there was a gap in whites. Another New Mexico shipper said demand was good and pricing going up for both reds and whites.
The third week of June crop update out of Oregon described perfect weather and a crop that’s “right on schedule.” The Idaho-Eastern Oregon crop was called “beautiful” and “much better than as we had last year.” Northern Colorado reported beautiful onions as well, and Eastern Colorado and Kansas were getting rain, but overall the crop was looking good. New York was seeing some dry conditions, but the onions looked good.
And market news for late June brought this report out of Vidalia: “We are pulling out of storage now, and the quality thus far is excellent.” The shipper said he was tight on colossols but has a good supply of jumbos and mediums. One New Mexico shipper had finished his overwinterings and moved to transplants and spring seeded. Quality was described as excellent, and demand was good for reds and whites. The market was “very active for everything but jumbo yellows.” Finding trucks hadn’t gotten any easier and was “still a struggle.” But another shipper told us it was “no problem filling orders.” Washington had started its overwinters, and one shipper told us it was “one of the better looking new crops… but there is still a lot of old inventory out there.” Reds were scarce “everywhere,” our broker’s perspective said.
Late June crop reports told us “everything looks good” in Washington, punctuated by, “I haven’t heard of a crop failure anywhere” by one shipper. IEO continued to grow, and onions had started to bulb.
Q3 started with reports from mid-July when shippers were citing somewhat “steady” prices, high freight rates and tight labor. That narrative didn’t change a lot over the next few months.
The second week of July had summer onions shipping from Georgia, California, New Mexico and Washington. The story didn’t vary much: Demand was good, and there was a slight uptick in pricing, but it hadn’t reached the point “where it’s been in past years,” according to one Vidalia shipper.
Vidalia had good supplies; other regions were tight on reds and whites. Some reports had the Southwest tight on yellows because of rain. California had good demand and movement, and quality was described as excellent. Walla Walla was halfway through its harvest, and onions were trending jumbo to colossal.
Crop-wise, Washington storage crop was looking good and expected to start in early August. Some Idaho-Eastern Oregon shippers said they’d start shipping the last week of August; others noted they’d be coming in later during August and some in early September. And Northern Colorado saw some of its grower/shippers coming back from fierce winds and hail that hit earlier in the season.
Later in July, more onions were shipping out of Washington’s Tri-Cities area, with one shipper noting “a lot of mediums.” New crop was expected out of the Columbia Basin by the end of July/beginning of August. One shipper in California’s Imperial Valley was working on acreage for 2019 and said there would be increased pricing on contracts for all sizes and colors for 2019 because the difference in pricing for the Pacific NW onions the Imperial Valley had too large. The shipper said higher minimum wage and production costs were causing the increase.
In crop news during that period, Kansas was on track to start harvest in late August, and one Northern Colorado shipper looked to start the first week of August. Western Colorado was coming along with an expected early September start date, and Utah was seeing exceptional quality and size for its fall crop. Idaho-Eastern Oregon growers were citing a good-looking crop with big onions and excellent quality.
In late July some Imperial Valley California shippers told us demand had slacked off somewhat, especially on smaller size yellows. Others reported good demand, with reds and whites seeing the best call. Columbia Basin started shipping some early direct seeded that last week, starting with reds and then moving into whites and yellows. Heat was a potential issue at that time.
A few more IEO shippers were getting into the season, as were some Washington sheds. New Mexico reported high demand for jumbos and larger in all colors. The market was said to be gaining in strength.
Crop news in late July showed a gap between Bakersfield and the higher elevations in California, with harvest in the upper area to start during the first week of August and go into October.
Colorado’s Front Range continued to experience weather events, with some fields taking a hit and others coming through just fine – as is always the case. In Wisconsin, red transplants were set to start shipping within a month, and quality was looking very good.
Early August reports out of California told us long days were being harvested and would ship through mid-September from the Central Valley. One Eastern shipper told us his California and Washington operations were meeting with level demand for yellows, but reds had backed off as customers waited to see if prices would go lower. Transportation was still high, to no one’s surprise. The Walla Walla deal was at its peak, and we heard the market was firm and the quality excellent. Supplies were expected to last through most of August. The Washington hybrid program kicked off, with indications for a normal crop.
Some New Mexico guys were finishing up their program for the year, with early to mid-August the clean-up period. Late varieties were running smaller than earlier in the season. Demand was termed “fair,” and the market was steady. Vidalia was still shipping and was expected to have product through August.
Early August crop reports came out of the NW, with the Willamette Valley harvest underway and production ready to kick off. Great quality and ample supplies were cited. IEO had some guys in, and others were preparing to start the second week of August with “excellent quality and great sizing” in all colors. Kansas was within days of starting with “a great mix of sizes.”
New York had seen a small bit of hand harvesting on transplants, but later August and early September would bring full activity. And Peruvian onions were “on the water” and expected to start shipping in mid-August.
The second and third weeks of August had decent quality and steady demand reported for California onions shipped by Eastern operations. Reds were strongest; yellows were steady. Washington was off to a good start, with crews harvesting at night and early in the morning to counter the high heat experienced in the region. Demand was steady; shippers were encouraged. And transportation was good because flatbeds were in big use. Also, exports were picking up. IEO was hitting the ground running, and sheds were saying pretty much in unison, “It’s been busy.” Quality reports were of excellent product in all sizes and colors.
Mid-August saw California harvesting more long days, and although temps had been high and air smoky due to multiple fires in that state, onions were coming through in good shape. Idaho-Eastern Oregon was shipping full steam, and demand was good for just about everyone. The market was steady.
Crops were progressing in Western Colorado and Utah.
Late August reports told us demand had slowed some for a few days but had picked up as the crops transitioned into Kansas, new fields in Washington and Idaho-Eastern Oregon. Demand was good for big onions. Oregon was shipping its 2018 onions, packing reds, yellows and sweets for good demand. Transportation in the NW was good.
Demand out of California had slowed down as the Northwest geared up, and the market was called steady with good supplies on medium yellows and small jumbo yellows. Bigger onions were tighter. In IEO, demand was good and the market steady. Quality and availability were good on bigger sizes as well, but trucks were starting to get tighter as more shippers came on.
Crops in Northern Colorado were hit by hail earlier in August, and the report late in the month was that it was “wait and see” for some shippers. Western Colorado continued to track to an early September start; Wisconsin was ready to bring in onions in late August and packing by Sept. 10.
Late August and early September saw some Central Valley sheds clean up and Nevada start its 2018 crop season with good demand for whites and sweets. Walla Walla was wrapping up its 2018 season of “tremendous yields” and preparing fields for planting the 2019 onions. Washington was moving a lot of onions, with steady demand and “decent” demand on reds and yellows, better on tight whites. Idaho-Eastern Oregon was heavy to jumbos and tight on mediums with good quality. One IEO shipper told us demand was tremendous as well. Transportation was getting tighter, and labor continued to be very tight in many regions. Western Colorado was clipping and ready to ship.
Washington hybrids were moving steadily, with fresh going well and storage coming on. Many shippers were looking forward to the fall holidays and increased demand, and one cited a $6.50 market on jumbo yellows, saying it’s “not bad.” The pull was from both retail and foodservice, and there was increased demand for exports from the NW.
As the month progressed, some Idaho-Eastern Oregon shippe4rs were seeing increased demand for mediums, which were correspondingly tighter. Others said demand was equal across the board.
Northern Colorado came in with a report that everything was going well with the season – just super busy.
Mid-September saw the Wisconsin crop about 25 percent harvested and supplies expected to run through May. One operation’s California Cuyama Valley crop was nearly harvested, and another was looking to start his onions in late September and finish in late November. Bakersfield and King City were finishing their harvest seasons as well. In Idaho-Eastern Oregon, most shippers were reporting a smooth season today, with good demand and good sales on jumbo yellows as well as other sizes and colors. Pricing was very good on reds and whites that period. Transportation? You guessed it: “Tough.” Labor? “Critical.”
Colorado Western Slope was running whites and yellows mid-month, and Utah was harvesting.
Late September brought harvest of storage onions in New York, and demand was good on jumbo yellows as well as all sizes of reds and whites. The market was described once again as steady. Kansas shippers were seeing good demand for smaller onions. One of our main contacts in North Carolina let us know about hurricane season and damage from Hurricane Florence, saying the hardest hit areas in NC were to the south and east of Raleigh. Hurricane Michael was still in the wings…
Demand in Idaho and Washington was largely called consistent, although one IEO shipper noted during the last week of the month that the market on medium yellows was very strong, and reds and whites were also doing quite well. Washington hybrids continued to move well, along with the Mayan Sweets; demand and pricing were said to be a bit off for Columbia Basin shippers who were nearing the end of harvest. We were told that once onions were in the barn, the market would likely pick up. Also, exports were offering some relief to the domestic market.
Crop updates during September told us that Mexico was about halfway through planting its 2019 onions and on track for a mid-January start, and Walla Walla fall planting was completed. Texas Rio Grande Valley was getting ready for an Oct. 5 start to the 1015 crop planting, and crews in Mexico were back in the field planting again after recent rains.
Moving on to early October, New York’s harvest was continuing, and some Canadian onions were also being sold. Wisconsin was experiencing “exceptional demand” the first week, and pricing was also good with medium yellows leading the pack. Northern Colorado had seen a bit of a slowdown in movement during late September, as is typical, and harvest was wrapped up. Colorado Western Slope was about half in, and movement was good with the market “about the same as it was last week.”
Idaho-Eastern Oregon was finishing harvest, much to the delight of all who had the bulk of harvest in the rearview mirror. Weather was just about perfect, we were told, although some late rain did occur. Sizing and quality were reported as good by virtually everyone. Western Oregon finished its harvest, and movement was reported good, especially on reds.
Planting got underway in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and continued in the Tampico area of Mexico.
Going into mid-October, we found out that harvest was wrapped up for some Washington shippers, and told us jumbos demand had been so good on some days that it exceeded supply. The market had shown some real signs of improvement, and exports remained a very viable outlet. Transportation was still a bear, though. Another Washington shipper cited good demand for medium yellows but cheap pricing on jumbos and larger. Still, another Washington guy told us all colors and sizes were moving, but mediums were the hottest ticket for both domestic and export markets. In Idaho-Eastern Oregon Mother Nature threw a bit of a curveball into harvest and slowed it down at the end for some shippers. Mediums and jumbos were doing the best, one shipper said.
Kansas got off to a slow start because of weather, but the finish was good. North Carolina’s new crop was up, and because of early planting, some operations are looking to start harvest in mid-July. The newly planted onions escaped damage from heavy storms that nailed other crops.
Colorado’s Western Slope had been hit by a freeze, and immediate assessments weren’t available. One shipper told us his grower lost some onions, and in the next few weeks, the verdict came back that damage wasn’t what was initially feared.
The Texas Rio Grande Valley’s planting was slowed due to weather, but the crews were still working within the planting window. Mexico was getting a few more seeded in the ground and then wrapped up planting.
Late October had shippers back at home, and we were hearing that the market was a bit sluggish, but PMA had been a great show. Washington was packing some whites and reds in the Walla Walla area, with Mayan Sweets coming in as expected. One multi-state shipper said demand was off for Idaho and Washington, and he speculated PMA, attendance and travel might have played a part. Smaller onions were moving better than larger, and the onion industry continued as a whole to be optimistic that the market would turn around.
More IEO shippers reported they’d finished harvest, and the storage onions looked great. Demand was steady, one shipper told us. Trucks were an issue, and rail was problematic. Utah had everything in the barn, and loads were starting up the third week of October. Trucks were not as hard to come by in that area. New York also finished its harvest the third week of October, and we heard demand and the market were steady. Mediums were tight.
The Rio Grande Valley remained on rain delay for planting, but industry insiders were confident everything was still within the window.
The first week of November saw Washington’s sweet program running at a consistent pace, with good quality and business. The market was steady for both sweets and hybrids, and optimism was rising for a good holiday season.
In the Treasure Valley, IEO shippers were bullish on size, quality and volume. Pricing, not so much. But, again, optimism was for an improving market with the coming fall/winter holidays.
Nevada harvest was finished, and though the yellow market was termed “soft,” anticipation was for pricing to firm up. Running all three colors. We’ve loaded a few, and we look for business to build.”
We got a report from Northern Colorado that the freeze that hit Colorado didn’t affect onions in Brighton because they had been replanted earlier in the season and were still in the ground.
Peruvian onions were gaining momentum in early November, with consistent pricing.
Planting in the Imperial Valley and California’s Central Valley began in early November, with good weather helping things along. Crews in the Rio Grande Valley got back into the fields as well and were expected to finish planting by the end of the month’s first week.
The second week of November was a busy one, with harvest wrapping up in King City, CA, and business and transportation good for Columbia Basin operations. In Idaho-Eastern Oregon demand was said to be a little slower, but the expectation was for a good Thanksgiving push the following week. Yellows were moving very well, and the market, again, was termed “steady.” Transportation was becoming more difficult because cold weather precluded flatbed transport. Rail was tight.
Western Colorado and Utah were seeing “awesome” movement, and one shipper told us he was “even short on jumbos.” Wisconsin had good movement and above-average pricing, and New York reported “ridiculously wet” conditions.
And mid-November, which led us to the present, had varied reports. One Northwest shipper said he hadn’t seen a big Thanksgiving push, and mediums continued to sell at a good price – but that was offset by the low prices paid for jumbos.
An Idaho-Eastern Oregon shipper said he’d seen brisk demand, and customers seeded to be stocking up. Quality was good, and pricing was less than optimum. Another IEO shipper said cold, dry weather allowed farmers to get fall field work finished, and he called demand good with a solid Thanksgiving trade. The price was “still cheap.”
Western Colorado and Utah were seeing “phenomenal demand” for their onions, and though trucks were tightening up, the feel was that the market was getting better.
Crop updates that week said the Imperial Valley was finished planting, and shippers expect a “manageable crop” with fewer planted acres.
The Texas Rio Grande Valley was also finishing the last of its planting and replanting, with one shipper telling us a normal start time and normal crop are anticipated. Mexico is in the ground, with some shippers expecting loads in mid- to late January and others around the first of February.
In late November our Market Update got optimistic some reports of good movement coming off Thanksgiving and going into Christmas, although trucks were becoming tighter with Christmas trees shipping. Nevada Sunions were being showcased and seeing good holiday movement, and some shippers told us their IEO onions were moving well. Demand was best for smaller onions, but jumbos were moving well. Other IEO shippers said it had quieted down a bit after Thanksgiving, but not outside the norm. Overall shipments out of the Treasure Valley were said to be up 3,000 loads YTD, but pricing had not increased. Western Colorado and Utah were moving well; New York had slowed down a bit.
Late November crop news out of the Rio Grande Valley was that the onions were up and going doing well. Tampico onions were all planted, with mid-to-late January arrivals expected for sweets.
Early December market reports out of North Carolina hit on freight “driving demand and the market.” Christmas tree loads were taking most of the trucks, and those that were available were even more expensive than normal. Onion prices were being affected, one shipper said, noting that higher freight costs brought the price of onions down. He told us “if you can find trucks at affordable prices, you can go a little higher, but if the trucks are expensive you have to go a little lower. The bottom line is that the truck issue is a real kicker.” Demand for Washington and Idaho onions was called “wishy-washy,” and transportation was “horrendous,” one NW guy said. He told us, “Jumbos are moving, but if you have medium yellows, there are flying out the door.” IEO demand was called “decent,” and optimism was increasing for a market bump as 2018 winded down. One IEO shippers said he thought the market had bottomed out and nowhere to go but up.
Western Colorado cleaned up for one shipper, and Utah continued “steady as she goes,” with good movement. Northern Colorado had good Thanksgiving movement, although prices were “cheap.” And an AZ/Texas grower/shipper kicked off its Mexican deal with whites out of a north-central region.
Mid-December market updates from Washington were that movement in the Northwest was strong, with plenty of onions being sold. Pricing, not as good, but “demand is certainly not the issue,” one shipper told us. Oregon was seeing good business going into Christmas, with a “steady” market and good interest in exports. IEO continued to report good demand for all sizes and colors, with trucks tight but loads covered. Peruvian onions were peaking, and shippers were expecting good demand to continue through the Peru season’s late January end.
Crop news in mid-December brought word that all overwinters were planted in the Imperial Valley, and acreage there is expected to be down from 2018. Mexico remained on track, with just a slight slowing from cooler weather. Vidalia had “a ways to go” before the 2019 crop could be assessed.
And the week before Christmas we talked to several onion folks across the country. One Northwest shipper told us that buyers were “trying to get their product in before the end of the year,” which made for a busy holiday season. Quality remained very good, and trucks were easing up. In Idaho-Eastern Oregon reports were that business was good, with reds moving well and mediums and jumbos also seeing plenty of action. Pricing? Not so much, but again there was optimism that it would start to rally as 2018 faded.
Utah was experiencing good demand, and Northern Colorado reported steady business. New York was also “steady,” and one shipper said NY, like the Northwest, was “trying to push the market up.” He said buyers were “squawking, but with mediums in such short supply, it makes sense that the market has to go up.”
Our last crop update of 2018 was that the Rio Grande Valley had grown nicely and was dormant, with Valley weather “perfect with warm days and cool nights.” Mexico’s Tampico-area crop of sweets was also doing well, and first loads are still expected in late January.
Now, take a look at just a few of the over 1,500 images we were proud to bring you in 2018: https://onionbusiness.com/celebrating-2018s-onion-industry-in-photos/