Growers see mixed demand for organic Vidalia sweet onions - The Packer

Growers see mixed demand for organic Vidalia sweet onions

04/05/2010 03:04:20 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

This is the fourth season that Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc., Greencastle, Pa., plans to market organically grown Vidalia onions.

Marty Kamer, partner and sales manager, said he’s patient with the category.

“Demand is still growing, but the segment is still in its infancy,” he said.

“We are just scratching the surface here. There is a better future for organics. It’s not a big part of our business but it is something we feel is necessary to offer our customers.”

Organic demand hasn’t been impressive for onion seller Barry Rogers, president of Sweet Onion Trading Co., Melbourne, Fla., which sells for a number of Vidalia growers.

“Organic demand is not bad,” Rogers said. “The guys that want them will take a few on every load. But it’s not like we thought it would be.”

Rogers said Southern Hemisphere-grown organics haven’t taken off.

“There aren’t that many doing them and the ones doing it aren’t selling that many,” he said.

“A guy will take a load of conventional and put on 30 cases of organics. You can’t sustain a farming operation that way unless they go on ad or they get real cheap.”

Jaime Brannen, sales manager of Gerrald’s Vidalia Sweet Onions Inc., Statesboro, said increased production has lowered premiums.

“When only one or two people were growing them, there was a big premium,” he said.

“Now, it’s very small and it’s a loss as organics are a very expensive crop to grow. Just about everyone grows some organics.”

Organics aren’t big for Plantation Sweets, Cobbtown.

“With us, it doesn’t seem to be growing as fast as we thought or anticipated it would,” said Ronny Collins, president and chief executive officer.

“At one time, we thought it would take off and really grow, but it’s been a slow-growing item.”

Collins said Plantation Sweets has only a handful of customers that request organic Vidalia onions.

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