Severe truck shortages are limiting the number of onions being shipped from the Treasure Valley of Western Idaho and Eastern Oregon.
Packing lines were shut down at times in mid-November at Ontario, Ore.-based Ontario Produce Co. Inc. because of the shortages, said Bob Komoto, the company’s sales manager.
“There’s plenty of business right now, but 40% of orders don’t have transportation,” Komoto said Nov. 18. “It’s been an issue for the past 15 years, but every year it seems to get a bit worse.”
Many of those orders run the risk of being cancelled if Ontario Produce can’t find trucks to deliver them, Komoto said.
“It remains to be seen if we get volume up with trucks as they are.”
Movement is off 10-20% for Nyssa, Ore.-based Snake River Produce Inc., said Kay Riley, general manager.
“It’s made things very, very difficult,” Riley said of the truck shortage. “It’s getting to be the worst ever (this year). We have a chronic transportation issue in this country, and I don’t think people understand it.”
And the problem isn’t limited to trucks, Riley said. Treasure Valley shippers also have had trouble lining up rail transportation this season.
Trucks typically become more available once demand for Christmas trees end, Komoto said, but even that isn’t the same guarantee it used to be, Riley said.
“Normally after the first of the year trucks are plentiful, but last year it wasn’t that way,” he said.
Not all valley grower-shippers, however, reported severe effects on shipments. John Wong, sales manager of Parma, Idaho-based Champion Produce Inc., said that for the most part, weekly volumes are normal for the company.
The price of valley onions also has been flat, hovering in the $5 to $5.50 range for jumbos in mid-November, Komoto said.
“Hopefully that will improve a little bit as we get into December,” he said.
On Nov. 21, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $6-7 for 50-pound sacks of colossal yellow Spanish onions from Idaho and Oregon, down from $7.50-9 last year at the same time.
Riley also hoped for an uptick in markets. He hoped strong fall demand from Mexican buyers for white and red onions would carry over into strong demand for Treasure Valley yellows.
One variable that could affect the price, Wong said, is shrink, which could be higher this year thanks to an abnormally wet fall. Wong also reported good buzz this year for export sales.
One thing growers don’t have to worry this season is quality, Komoto said.
“It’s excellent,” he said.
Ontario Produce’s mid-November holdings were similar to last year at the same time, Komoto said.
Snake River’s volumes also are similar to last year’s, Riley said. The size profile was off about 10%, however.