Strong demand, excellent quality on tap for winter onions

10/03/2012 12:50:00 PM
Andy Nelson

U.S. storage onion growers expect strong demand, excellent quality and lighter-than-normal volumes later this fall and this winter.

Kay Riley, general manager of Snake River Produce, Nyssa, Ore., said he expects strong demand heading into winter. A combination of an early start and lower-than-expected yields meant that as of early October, a lot of onions had already shipped and there were fewer than usual left to ship.

“We’re a little disappointed (with the lower yields), but we’ll still have reasonable volumes, and we’re optimistic that we’ll have a pretty good market.”

On Oct. 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $7-8 for 50-pound cartons of colossal Spanish hybrid onions from Idaho and Eastern Oregon, up from $6 last year at the same time.

Yields could be down 15-20% for Treasure Valley growers, thanks to the fourth-hottest summer on record and some weather-related issues in the spring, Riley said.

There were also big variations in size, though Riley thought there would probably be adequately sized onions to meet retail demand. He said quality looked excellent as of early October.

The lighter volumes heading into late fall and winter also would likely ease the pressure Treasure Valley growers often feel this time of year to find enough trucks to move product, Riley said.

In Colorado, meanwhile, Weslaco, Texas-based The Onion House expects to ship storage onions grown on the state’s Western Slope, near Olathe, well into and possibly through January, said Don Ed Holmes, the company’s president.

The Onion House wrapped up its Colorado intermediate, non-storage deal, which began in mid-August, in early October, Holmes said.

The company has been shipping Olathe storage onions for 20 years, Holmes said, and this year’s crop may get top marks for quality.

“It’s the prettiest crop I’ve ever seen,” he said. “They have a beautiful golden appearance and good size. The weather was just right.”

Volumes from Olathe could be down slightly from last season, Holmes said.

Colorado’s freight advantage over western shippers thus far this season was translating into strong demand and higher-than-usual price premiums, Holmes said.

“We’ve been real lucky this year,” he said. “There seems to be an adequate supply of transportation on the Western Slope.”

The Onion House will likely transition from Colorado to Mexico in late January, Holmes said.

Texas onion volumes will likely be down in 2013 because of water shortages, he said.



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