The sweet onion is the official vegetable of Texas, but that state’s production of onions — sweet and otherwise — is declining.
Texas onion acreage peaked at 17,700 acres in 2006. This year, Texas growers planted 7,800 acres, said Bret Erickson, manager of the South Texas Onion Committee and president and chief executive officer of the Texas International Produce Association, Mission.
“Our acreage is way down,” Erickson said. “These guys have gotten beat up the past few years. But it looks like it’s shaping up to be a good season. People are expecting good markets because people are planting less.”
After experiencing strong markets in 2010, Texas onion growers planted 13,000 acres in 2011. It was too much, and demand was weak relative to supply. State acreage dropped to 9,400 acres in 2012.
Although acreage took another dip this year, that doesn’t necessarily mean the state’s volumes will be significantly lower than a year ago, said David DeBerry, director of category management for Crescent Fruit & Vegetable LLC, Edinburg, Texas.
“I think our volume harvested will be similar to 2012 even though we have 20% fewer acres,” DeBerry said. “Last year was the worst for yields in many years.”
J Allen Carnes, owner of Winter Garden Produce, Uvalde, Texas, said onion tonnage has dipped in Texas in recent years but not as dramatically as cuts in acreage. Carnes said better varieties and better practices have allowed growers to improve yields and compensate somewhat for reduced plantings.
Carnes also said reduced acreage in the state has taken pressure off the demand for labor.
“That has been an issue in the past,” he said, “but in the last year or two, it hasn’t been. That’s something we monitor very closely.”