More than 14 inches of rain fell on their Vidalia onions, he said.
“We had the best seed beds I’ve ever seen to start with, though,” said Mike Collins, who predicted good yields and average sizes.
Michael Hively, who with the Collins duo recently launched a new company called Sweet Vidalia Farms LLC, said the rain likely was less of a problem for the smaller growers.
“Those big growers with big heavy equipment had to wait longer to get back into their fields than the little guys with smaller, lighter tractors,” Hively said.
Solid prices expected early
Anxiety about the rain gave way to optimism about prices by late March.
Vidalia growers and marketers said low supplies of sweet onions from Texas and Mexico were good news for the trademarked sweet onions from Georgia.
Kevin Hendrix, chairman of the Vidalia Onion Committee and vice president of Hendrix Produce Inc., Metter, said he expects the season to open with prices in the $22-$26 range for 40-pound cartons.
He and his father, R.T. Hendrix, grow about 800 acres of Vidalias and expect to start shipping April 15, the date set by the Georgia Department of Agriculture as the official start.
Some growers said they planned begin shipping as early as April 8. Those early shipments are subject to special inspections.
“The whole first-to-market thing is mostly customer driven,” Hendrix said. “We have an inspector on site so we could go early, but we want to ship the best product, and sometimes that means you wait a week.”
L.G. Herndon Jr. Farms, based in Lyons, has a similar philosophy.
Jason Herndon, nephew of L.G. “Bo” Herndon Jr. and manager of the operation said being first to market isn’t the most important factor for his family’s operation.
“We don’t dig onions until they are mature,” Herndon said of the farm’s 500 acres of Vidalias. “We’re in this for the long haul, not the month of April.”
Although many Vidalia growers and marketers agree with the Vidalia Onion Committee chairman’s prediction that prices at the opening of the season should be at least $22 per 40-pound carton, few would venture a guess on how long the prices would hold.
Joey Johnson, co-owner of J&S Produce Inc., Mount Vernon, said his company serves as an agent for four Vidalia growers and has been involved in the deal for more than 20 years.
“In the past, before the offshore deals, we could hold the prices better through the season,” Johnson said, adding J&S expects to ship about 50,000 cartons of Vidalia onions this season.