A cold winter will likely delay the start of the Texas onion deal by up to two weeks.

Don Ed Holmes, owner of The Onion House LLC, Weslaco, Texas, moved to the Rio Grande Valley in 1977.

He remembers devastating freezes in 1983 and 1989, where temperatures got far lower than they have this winter. In fact, he can think of only one day this winter where temperatures dipped below freezing in valley onion fields.

But with the possible exception of a couple of years in the late 1970s, Holmes has a hard time remembering when temperatures were as consistently low as they’ve been this winter.

The average lows, he said, have been 10-12 degrees below normal.

“It doesn’t hurt the crop,” Holmes said. “They’re dormant anyway, so it doesn’t matter if it’s 60 or 40.”

While quality isn’t an issue, timing is, he said. In a typical year, temperatures tick up about mid-January and onions really start growing.

Because of the cooler temps this year, the crop didn’t really take off until about the week of Feb. 17, Holmes said.

Mirroring Mexico

Texas wasn’t alone.

“Texas should mirror Mexico,” Holmes said. “They’re three or four weeks late.”

Mexican onions began entering the market in mid-February, with Texas product expected to follow in early April.

Texas onions should ship through May this year, Holmes said.

While quality is expected to be good this year, yields will likely be below last season’s very high per-acre numbers, Holmes said.

“Right now the plants appear to be healthy,” Holmes said in mid-February. “It should be business as normal.”

Michael Davis, co-owner of Tex-Mex Sales LLC, Weslaco, Texas, also expects a delay to the start of the Texas deal courtesy of Mother Nature.

Slow going

After a dry start to the season, followed by rains that, while welcome, also caused delays, combined with the cold, Texas growers have had theirs hands full, Davis said.

“It’s been very cold all over the country and it’s the same thing here,” Davis said Feb. 14.

“It’s been a fight this year. This is our first day close to 80 degrees in two months. It looks like we’ll be behind a couple of weeks.”

Harvest could start about March 8 and the first shipments follow about a week later, he said.

Early reports indicate good quality on the 2014 Texas sweet onion crop, Davis said.

“It’s a long way from being made, but the crop looks really good,” he said.

“The early crop has decent size. It looks like it will size up fine. We have good stands. If Mother Nature leaves us alone, we’ll have decent yields.”

The Texas deal was running a week to 10 days behind schedule as of Feb. 20, said Troy Bland, director of operations for Glennville, Ga.-based Bland Farms.

The cold weather will likely affect yields, with some bulbing possible, but it shouldn’t be dramatic.

“It’s like all regions, some fields will be great, some so-so,” Bland said.

In addition to yields, sizing could be affected by the cold, with colossals and jumbos not as plentiful as in years past, Bland said.

That said, he’s confident the grower-shipper’s retail partners will be flexible when it comes to size.

“I think the size profile is something we can work with to satisfy our customers’ needs,” he said.

Bland Farms expects its Texas deal to kick off in about the second or third week of March.

In the Winter Garden area, Winter Garden Produce, Uvalde, Texas, expects to begin shipping in the first week of May, said J Allen Carnes, the company’s owner.

The deal should last about two months, Carnes said.

“It should be pretty similar to last year,” he said.

“Pretty consistent quality, quantities and size. Not boom, not bust.”