Onion grower-shippers who work to maintain consistent supplies year-round say it’s not enough to keep the product coming. Onions from one region have to be virtually indistinguishable from product out of another.
Peruvian onions are a case in point.
Onions are grown primarily in two regions there, Ica and Arequipa.
They’re two distinct regions, said Walt Dasher, co-owner of Glennville, Ga.-based grower-shipper G&R Farms.
Ica finishes in early December and then the deal moves further south and that bridges through late February, Dasher said.
“The guys that are in the business of growing onions there, we’re their lifeline. They need us and we need them, so I rely very heavily on the growers we use in Ica to help us with the programs in Arequipa,” Dasher said.
Communication among growers in both regions helps assure the onions not only match up from one to the other but also replicate the attributes of Vidalia onions, Dasher said.
“A lot of guys in one area have relationships with access to farms in the other, but you also have some isolated growers in Arequipa that are in the loop,” he said.
That’s not easy to do, said Barry Rogers, president of Grant, Fla.-based Sweet Onion Trading Co.
“That’s a little trickier to try and have several regions running at the same time and keep a 12-month supply of onions with no interruption, no hiccups,” he said.
Dasher said his company has a strong hand in the production of all onions his company ships out of Peru, in order to maintain that essential consistency.
Glennville-based Bland Farms takes the same tack, said Delbert Bland, the company’s owner.
“That’s the reason we do all of our own growing,” he said.
That’s the only approach his company feels comfortable taking, Bland said.
“We grow all of our own onions in Vidalia, or most. We have an agronomy staff of four that specializes in agronomy of onions and we use that same group in Peru as in Vidalia, so we have our own people overseeing the planting and harvesting and are in 100% control of those onions from start to finish,” Bland said.
His company controls about 1,200 acres in Peru and ships about 12,000 cartons out of the country each year, he said.
Greencastle, Pa.-based Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc. works to provide all of its customers with “a consistently high-quality product” out of Peru, said Marty Kamer, vice president.
“Our key to consistent quality is total integration in the entire process,” he said.
Sticking to set procedures helps to assure consistency from region to region, said Mauro Suazo, business development manager for Medley, Fla.-based Customized Brokers Inc.
“We work with grower-packer-shippers and with importers at times, and in 99% of cases, they have field people that make sure everything is following protocol, Good Agricultural Practices, Good Manufacturing Practices, etc., so quality is assured and shipments are allowed into the U.S.,” Suazo said.
John Shuman, president of Reidsville, Ga.-based Shuman Produce Inc., agreed.
“RealSweet Peruvian sweet onions are grown using many of the same farming methods and even the same seed varieties we use here in Vidalia,” he said.
“Coupled with a similar climate and soil type to Vidalia, these methods ensure consistent quality in our RealSweet Peruvian sweet onions.”