A late start to the Treasure Valley onion deal could be a blessing in disguise when it comes to building demand.

From a marketing standpoint, the late start does concern Kay Riley, general manager of Nyssa, Ore.-based Snake River Produce Inc., which expects to begin shipping early-variety onions from the Treasure Valley by the week of Aug. 29.

But those lost weeks could be compensated for by another market factor, Riley said.

“I think California’s running a bit behind, so it could turn out just right,” he said.

Also, Riley said, demand for Treasure Valley onions tends to be strong regardless of when they begin shipping.

“Most of our customers, because of the perishable nature of summer onions, are pretty happy to get to us,” he said.

“I think demand will be usual.”

The quality of summer onions from California, Texas, Arizona and other growing regions can begin to suffer by summer’s end, Riley said.

Snake River will be glad for the end of summer for other reasons, too.

“There’s been a bit of a lack of demand, whether that’s just summer” or because of financial system worries, Riley said.

Grant Kitamura, president of Ontario, Ore.-based Murakami Produce Co., agreed with Riley that the Treasure Valley’s late start could wind up being good for demand.

“Hopefully it will create a better transition from California and New Mexico,” he said.

“It could be a good thing, allowing them to clean up.”

John Wong, sales manager for Parma, Idaho-based Champion Produce Inc., wasn’t worried that the two-week delay to the start of the Treasure Valley deal would reduce sales.

“I think we’ll have enough opportunities to sell the crop,” he said.

Trying to gauge demand at the beginning of the season is always a tricky proposition, Wong said, given the number of competing domestic and import deals.

“By November it becomes more predictable, when the market settles out,” he said.

The latest convulsions in the stock market and other economic doom-and-gloom talk could put a dent in demand this season, Wong said.

A late start may mean an emptier pipeline, but it also means missed opportunities during the weeks you’d normally be shipping, said Bob Komoto, sales manager for Ontario-based Ontario Produce Co. Inc.

“You never make up anything,” he said.

“A later start means you miss some of the market.”

On the bright side, Komoto expects 2011-12 to be another comeback year for foodservice, which is good news for valley growers.

Before the recession, foodservice accounted for about 70% of Ontario Produce’s sales, Komoto said.

By recession’s end, that had fallen to about 60%.

But it’s inching back up.

“Foodservice made a good comeback last year,” he said.

“Hopefully this year it will come up a little bit more.”