Onion demand likely strong through spring

01/23/2013 11:19:00 AM
Andy Nelson

Sweet onion importers and shippers said demand should remain strong at least through the Mexico and Texas deals.

Weslaco, Texas-based The Onion House expected to begin receiving onions from Mexico Jan. 10-15, said Don Ed Holmes, the company’s president.

Instead, thanks to cool weather, arrivals are likely to be pushed back to about Feb. 5, he said.

That’s not a bad thing, though, Holmes said. With Peru winding down in late January, markets should remain strong when Mexico gets up and running in February.

“It all looks good,” Holmes said Jan. 23.

Four factors are contributing to onion markets being strong and remaining strong, said John Shuman, president of Shuman Produce Inc., Reidsville, Ga.

“Mexico’s down, Texas is down, Chile’s short and Peru is finishing with limited volumes,” Shuman said Jan. 23. “We anticipate the market will stay strong and pretty steady, maybe into Vidalia.”

The official start of the Vidalia season, set by an advisory council, typically is in mid-April, but has been as late as April 27.

Troy Bland, quality control director for Bland Farms LLC, Glennville, Ga., agreed with Shuman.

“We ended Peru with some of the highest prices we’ve had all year,” he said. “Mexico normally starts a bit lower, but this year it looks like it will maintain (higher prices). And it looks strong into Texas with the water shortages, and strong coming out of Vidalia.”

The Peruvian deal was winding down in late January with prices in the low to mid-$20s, Shuman said.

December rains, meanwhile, limited volumes and hurt the quality of Chilean onions, he said.

Shuman Produce began shipping from Mexico in the second half of January, with volumes expected to pick up through the last two weeks of the month. With Chile’s problems and a fast end to the Peruvian deal, Texas volumes will come as a “welcome relief,” Shuman said.

With lighter acreage in Mexico and yields expected to be down in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, markets should stay strong for the foreseeable future, Holmes said.

“It may come off a bit in the short run, but I think we’re looking at a pretty good onion market into July.”

By January, Idaho and Oregon volumes also were lighter than in past years, thanks to more volume sold on contract and to lower production, Holmes said.

The strong markets haven’t been just supply-based, Holmes said.

“We moved 20% more volume out of Colorado in a month less shipping time,” he said. “It was one of the best Thanksgivings and Christmases I’ve ever seen.”


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