(Dec. 5) When Chile’s sweet onion deal kicks off at the end of the year it could look like the opposite of last year’s record season.

Peruvian sweet onions might not be out of the way in time for markets to strengthen when Chilean product starts coming in, predicted Delbert Bland, president of Bland Farms LLC, Reidsville, Ga.

“I don’t see a lot of change in the market between now and then,” Bland said Dec. 5. “It looks like Peru may be going a little bit longer than usual this year.”

Barry Rogers, president of Sweet Onion Trading Co., Palm Bay, Fla., shared Bland’s concerns about markets.

“I hope the Peru deal finishes up,” he said Dec. 4. “The market is dragging.”

On Dec. 4, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $12 for 40-pound cartons of jumbo yellow granex sweet onions from Peru, down from $22-24 last year at the same time.

John Battle, owner of Battle Produce Exchange, Traverse City, Mich., exclusive marketer of OSO Sweet onions from Chile, said the company will sell onions at the fixed program price of $28 per carton.

About 85% of the 2007-08 OSO Sweet crop already has been sold, he said. The company expects to import about 500,000 cases this season, about the same as last season, he said.

Quality was as good as it has ever been, Battle said Dec. 5, shortly after a visit to Chile. OSO Sweets also should begin arriving about Jan. 1, he said.

Harvest in Chile for Sweet Onion Trading should start the week of Dec. 17, with U.S. shipments beginning to arrive the second week of January, Rogers said.

Weather will delay the start of the Chilean deal by a week or two this season, he said.

While Peru could cause Chile problems at the beginning of the deal, Mexico could do the same near the end, in the spring, Bland said.

“I’m a little concerned about overlapping with Mexico,” he said. “Mexico seems to be a lot earlier this year. I think we’ll see a lot of pressure with all the deals through the spring.”