Peruvian onion volumes down, but quality excellent

09/16/2008 12:00:00 AM
Tom Burfield


In Peru, workers harvest sweet onions and place them in mesh bags for curing. Somewhat cool, cloudy weather led to a late start this season, says Bob DeBruyn, president of DeBruyn Produce Co., Zeeland, Mich. In addition, DeBruyn says some Peruvian sweet onion shipments arrived a bit later than usual because growers were reluctant to get back into the deal too soon, recalling the “disastrous” pricing they saw last year.

Courtesy DeBruyn Produce Co.


(Sept. 16, 9:47 a.m.) Volume of sweet onions from Peru this season will be less than last year, but quality should be outstanding, grower-shippers said.

Michael Hively, general manager for Bland Farms LLC, Glennville, Ga., returned from a recent trip to Peru and described the onions as “the prettiest crop I’ve ever seen.”

“The quality should be excellent this year,” he added.

Industrywide, volume is estimated at 3,000 containers compared to 4,200 in 2007, he said. Each container holds about 52,000 pounds of onions.

Growers in Peru give priority to exports, so U.S. importers usually get the best quality, said John Vlahandreas, national onion sales director for Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC, Idaho Falls, Idaho.

On Sept. 25, 2007, 40-pound cartons of jumbo yellow granex onions from Peru were selling for $16-18, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This year, Vlahandreas said he expects to see prices in the $14-16 range. As of Sept. 8, 2008, prices were $22-24.

Volume is down because growers overproduced last season, so they cut back this year’s crop, said Kevin Hendrix, vice president of Hendrix Produce Inc., Metter, Ga.

The company started shipping Peruvian onions the first week of September, right on schedule, he said, adding that quality looked good.

Some shipments arrived a bit later than usual because growers were reluctant to get back into the deal too soon, recalling the “disastrous” pricing they saw last year, said Bob DeBruyn, president of DeBruyn Produce Co., Zeeland, Mich.

Somewhat cool, cloudy weather also led to a late start.

“It’s taking at least a week more to cure (the onions) than we’re used to,” he said in mid-August.

The upside of the delay is that it allows the onions more time to grow.

With the deal lasting several months and with reduced volume this year, the delay may not have a significant effect on the overall crop, DeBruyn said.


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