Onion volume looks steady

11/04/2011 09:46:00 AM
Ashley Bentley

As fall onion harvest concludes in multiple growing regions, onion shippers hope supplies are just right to firm a weak market.

Weather in eastern Idaho was a little milder than the cold setting in on the western side of the state in mid-October, so onions were coming out of the ground more easily than potatoes.

Onions out of Idaho and the Northwest were still under hoops mid-October, said Mike Gorczyca, procurement manager for Monterey, Calif.-based Pro*Act. During the fall and winter the company sources onions from Idaho, Oregon, California, Washington, Colorado and Michigan, with the majority coming from Idaho or Washington.

California’s fall harvest was also delayed because of a mild spring, but quality was not affected, said Nelia Alamo, director of sales and marketing for Oxnard, Calif.-based Gills Onions. The state’s spring crop is due in March or early April.

In late October, Weslaco, Texas-based The Onion House shipped what owner Don Ed Holmes called a very manageable crop out of Colorado. Holmes said he expects to import sweet onions from Mexico by Jan. 10.

“We’re hoping the prices get a little better,” Holmes said. “This whole onion deal slid off in a ditch in March and has really been in a ditch ever since.”

Holmes said prices have been as low as $4 per carton the last two weeks of October.

Holmes expected to be finished planting in Texas by Nov. 15, right on time for a spring harvest. Overall onion acreage should be down in the Rio Grande Valley after poor markets during the 2011 season for onions and high markets for other crops, including corn, grain sorghum and cotton.

Onion supplies from Idaho and eastern Oregon were looking good for Wilcox Fresh as of the last week of October, said Jim Richter, executive vice president of sales and marketing for the Rexburg, Idaho-based company.

Wilcox Fresh ships its own yellow, white and red onions out of Idaho and Oregon, and moves into sweet onions out of Texas and the Southeast in the spring through its co-packers. Shipping both potatoes and onions out of Idaho allows the company to mix loads and offer its customers one less order to make, Richter said.

Gorzcyca said he expects onion sizing to be slightly off this year, with fewer colossals on the market.

The size profile of onions at Idaho Falls-based Potandon Produce looks fairly normal, said Jamey Higham, vice president of foodservice.

Margaret DeBruyn, chief executive officer for Zeeland, Mich.-based DeBruyn Produce, was still waiting the last week of October to see how the Northwest onion deal got into storage. Grower-shippers were starting to have some issues with cold weather, she said.


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