VIDALIA, Ga. — The official shipping date for the start of the Vidalia onion season is April 27.

The Vidalia Onion Advisory Panel, which works to ensure the quality of the state’s sweet onion crop, recommended the date to Georgia commissioner of agriculture Tommy Irvin.

Though many shippers plan to begin shipping Vidalias before the official starting date, growers that load before then must meet federal inspection standards.

“Everyone’s eager for them,” said Michael Blume, salesman with Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc., Greencastle, Pa., which markets Vidalias grown by Cowart Farms, Lyons.

Blume said Cowart hopes to begin shipments a few days earlier than the official starting date.

John Shuman, president of Shuman Produce Inc., Reidsville, said his growers plan to start shipping limited volume April 20.

Because of weather problems encountered during November and December plantings, Shuman said he expects this season’s Vidalia deal to be down 20-25% and produce fewer jumbos and colossals.

“Within that, the size profile will be more mediums and jumbos,” he said April 14. “The onions planted in January and February are not where they should be in terms of size.”

The sizing of the onions planted later is yet to be determined for the intermediate- and late-season harvest, Shuman said.

Last year, the committee set April 20 as the season’s official start.

(Note on correction: This story originally incorrectly mischaracterized a quote by John Shuman, president of Shuman Produce Inc., Reidsville, Ga., on the description of this season’s Vidalia onion crop in the ninth paragraph).