Courtesy River Point FarmsWorkers harvest onions for River Point Farms, Hermiston, Ore. President Bob Hale says yields are good and prices are strong this year, with double-digit prices on red, white and yellow onions. All eyes were on Georgia’s Vidalia sweet onion crop this spring as cool, wet weather in March and April led to problems with quality, seed stems, staining and low yields.
The degree of loss due to seed stems was still unclear as of May 9, about a month after harvest began, but Delbert Bland, owner of Glennville, Ga.-based Bland Farms, said he still expects a good crop.
“Even though we won’t pack out as many as we’d like, we still have a good-quality onion, pretty as it’s ever been,” said Bland, who said he hopes to have all his Vidalias out of the field by the end of May.
The market is different from last year, he said, when a severe downy mildew problem wasn’t discovered until after the market had opened and prices had been set.
“This year our problem with seed stems was recognized in time, and the industry adjusted the price to coincide with the supply,” he said.
Sweet Onion Trading Co., Melbourne, Fla., is augmenting its limited supply of Vidalias with sweet onions from California, where volume is good, and a new crop from South Carolina, to meet the demand for local produce, president Barry Rogers said.
The situation in Georgia sharply contrasts with that in California’s Imperial Valley, where “the harvest is going wonderfully, with excellent quality and volume,” Nelia Alamo, director of sales and marketing for Oxnard, Calif.-based processor Gills Onions, said May 8.
On May 6, Bill Hagins, partner in Watsonville, Calif.–based Pajaro Valley Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Distributing, said Imperial Valley growers began harvesting a week early and prices looked fairly good, with a 50-pound unit of jumbo yellows trading from $8 to $10 and a 25-pound sack of reds trading around $14 to $16.
New Mexico and Texas onions
Although production is expected to be down in New Mexico, where the harvest is set to begin, growers anticipate a profitable season.
“Our market looks real good because not everybody’s still in,” said Marty Franzoy, owner of Hatch, N.M.–based Skyline Produce.
“The salesmen and brokers say it’s going to be double digits to start,” said Franzoy, who grows yellows, red and sweets, “but I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Brandon Barker, vice president of Las Cruces, N.M.-based Barker Produce, which also packs and ships onions from Arizona and Texas for bulk and processors, said this year’s spring crop of yellow and red onions out of Arizona “is probably the best we’ve ever had, with good yield and sizes.”