Peru onions to take over as Vidalia winds down

11/10/2004 12:00:00 AM
Chris Koger

(Nov. 10) Vidalia’s sweet onion supply finally began to hit its limit in early November, and shippers of Peruvian onions said they welcome the probable market boost.

On Nov. 8, 40-pound cartons of the Peruvian onions were $12-13 for repacked colossal and jumbos, which has been the standard f.o.b. throughout the season. The season hasn’t brought an f.o.b. above $14 since the U.S. Department of Agriculture first reported prices in mid-September.

At the same time in 2003, colossal from Peru were at $17-18, hitting a low point in a season that started with jumbos at $21, and ended with jumbos at $22-24.

The first week of November, Georgia’s onion shipments had dwindled to about 600,000 pounds, putting the season’s totals at 234.3 million pounds, compared to the 142.1 million shipped in 2003. By contrast, Peruvian imports this season have been 325,000 pounds, compared to 338,000 last year.

“Certainly, (Georgia’s departure) strengthens the Peruvian deal and the sweet onion program in general,” said Mike Martin, head of Zeeland, Mich.-based Debruyn Produce Co., on Nov. 9. “We’re already starting to see the positive effects of that. The Peruvian quality has been very good, and we’re seeing demand improve.”

Delbert Bland, president of Vidalia onion shipper Bland Farms Inc., Reidsville, Ga., however, said some disease problems have been compounded by moisture, forcing importers like his company to keep a close eye on quality.

“They’ve had some disease in the southern part of Peru, and some damp mornings, and that’s unusual,” Bland said. “You don’t want moisture, with them being on the boat and staying there for two weeks. A lot of times you can get mold.”

Bland said Vidalia’s late season has had some effect on the lower Peruvian market, but he also blamed “hot” onions being sold as sweet, which is a perennial cause for concern among onion shippers.

“There were so many ‘sweet’ onions this year, they’re coming out of the woodwork,” he said. “I don’t think a lot of these onions should be calling themselves sweet.”

On Nov. 9, Bland said the heightened need to grade some onions out of the supply chain has lowered his company’s expected volumes over the next six weeks, from 150 loads to 100 loads.

“The crop’s going to be a little shorter than what people anticipated,” he said.



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