Smaller onions a challenge to shippers - The Packer

Smaller onions a challenge to shippers

09/14/2012 11:28:00 AM
Melissa Shipman

This year, growers say Peru could produce fewer larger-size onions this year.

“We are facing a challenge this year relative to lower yields due to overall sizing being slightly smaller than normal,” said Marty Kamer, vice president of Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc., Greencastle, Pa.

“We project 5% or 10% more medium onions to be marketed in consumer bags, and we project 10% to 15% less colossal,” he said.

Struggle to find jumbos

Others agree.

“We’ve heard that a lot of people are having issues getting jumbos and colossals,” said Margret DeBruyn, chief executive officer of DeBruyn Produce Co., Zeeland, Mich.

DeBruyn said she has had more people come to them asking for jumbos because they haven’t been able to get them.

However, she said she’s uncertain whether this will be an issue for the entire Peruvian season because different crops were planted at different times and it’s still early in the deal.

“There may be more mediums this year, and smaller jumbos than in the past, but at this point, we’re really just getting into Peru, so it’s just one of those things that will just need to play out as the season goes along,” she said.

Derek Rodgers, director of sales for Sweet Onion Trading Co., Melbourne, Fla., also said it’s still a little early to make too many sizing predictions.

“We’re still trying to get a handle on sizing,” he said.

Rodgers does expect slight differences this year, however.

“There probably will be less colossal, but that should filter into more jumbo, so it shouldn’t have too big of an impact,” he said.

DeBruyn also doesn’t necessarily expect many supply disruptions because the major players in the deal should be able to adjust supply orders to meet customer needs.

“Sales really depend on the customer base, and there can be some shuffling,” she said.

Other challenges

Other potential challenges center on the logistics of moving product to the U.S.

“There’s always the matter of things coming across in a container on the water,” Rodgers said. “There’s always a margin of error for how many days it will take or if it will get hung up.”

He doesn’t expect any major transportation issues this year, though.

“It should be similar to last year, with transit times roughly the same,” he said.

Brian Kastick, president and general manager of Oso Sweet Onions, Charleston, W. Va., expects some additional challenges this year.

“American shipping companies are trying to optimize space, and it’s harder to get cargo moved where you want it,” he said. “It will be a concern going forward for other commodities as well. Logistics are more challenging than in the past.”

Delbert Bland, owner of Bland Farms LLC, headquartered in Glennville, Ga., says shipping costs are higher.

“It’s more expensive to ship this year than what it normally is, but that’s part of what you get into,” he said.

DeBruyn also said another possible issue with having tighter supplies this season could be the attempt to undercut existing contracts.

“A lot of these relationships with growers are set up way in advance by contracts, and some people want to be pirates and go down there to pay more than an established contract and buy out a grower directly with cash,” she said.

However, she says this kind of thing can happen to importers across the board.

“It’s just the nature of the beast when supplies are tighter and the market is hotter,” she said.



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