Onion growers and shippers in New Mexico anticipate the market will firm up as their deal starts to peak.
“It depends on a lot of factors — whenever Texas cleans up and when Southern California cleans out,” said Bill Coombs, salesman with Arrey, N.M.-based Desert Springs Produce.
He said “multiple” factors could bring prices up by the end of June or early July, but acknowledged that it was difficult to predict the market that far ahead.
“Whatever happens, the market is the market,” he said.
New Mexico’s spring/summer deal generally launches with peak volumes of grano yellows.
On May 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported 50-pound sacks of granos from California’s Imperial Valley were priced at $10-12 for super colossal-sized product; $7-9, colossal; $6-8, jumbo; and $6-7, medium.
A year earlier, the same product, from the same growing region, was at $8-10 for colossal and medium and $8-9 for jumbo.
Growers and shippers were expecting normal production volume from New Mexico in 2014, which, according to the National Onion Association, is 286.2 million pounds.
According to the association, New Mexico has 5,500 acres of onions. It ranks eighth in the U.S. in onion acreage, behind Washington’s 23,828 acres; Idaho-Eastern Oregon’s 19,800; California’s 18,150; Georgia’s 12,700; New York’s 10,250; Texas’s 9,500; and West-Central Oregon’s 6,175.
New Mexico is sixth in production among U.S. states/regions. The U.S. leaders are Washington, at 1.44 billion pounds and Idaho-Eastern Oregon, 1.42 billion.
Brandon Barker, operations manager at Las Cruces, N.M.-based grower-shipper Barker Produce Inc., said the early spring market had been weak, “but you’ve got a lot of players going now.”
He said he wasn’t sure what to expect for the New Mexico deal.
The crop was shaping up well, said Debbie Porter, owner of Hatch, N.M.-based Hatch Valley Produce.
“Crops look decent, considering the water situation,” she said, referring to ongoing drought conditions that have plagued the state for several years.
Porter, whose company has about 275 acres, said she was expecting a normal start — the last week of May, with shipments of granos going out in the first week of June.
A normal, early-June start, appeared likely, as well, for J&D Produce in Deming, N.M., said Jeff Brechler, salesman and grower liaison.
“All systems go. It’s looking fine,” he said.
Overall, the onion market was a “mixed bag” in mid-May, said Steve Smith, president of Pleasant Grove, Utah-based National Onion Inc., which has an office in Las Cruces.
“It was very good for February, March, a lot of April, but I guess Tampico, Mexico and Texas have overlapped each other a little bit and the market has dropped quite a bit, and California has started out with a little volume,” he said.
Growing conditions in New Mexico are very good, he said.
“All the fields look very nice,” he said.
The ongoing drought, which has varied in intensity from one area to the next across the state, has complicated the situation, but growers have done their best to work around the obstacles, Smith said.
“It’s still there, but you just plant what you can get water for,” he said. “They cut back allocations, and you have to decide what you water and what you can’t, so you don’t plant it unless you can water it.”
Smith said volumes should be the same this year as last.
“It looks like they should have a pretty good yield out of these fields,” he said, noting that normal volume was about 1.5 million pounds.
The onions were sizing up well, Smith said.
“You should have plenty of jumbos,” he said.
Jay Hill, salesman with Hatch-based Shiloh Produce Inc., agreed with Smith’s assessment.
“It looks like it’s going to be a good medium-jumbo blend,” he said. “We’re ahead of schedule on size, so it looks like we could have some pretty good size.”