Growers, marketers and others in the onion business say they anticipate plenty of product across the U.S. this year.
“We’ve got a good-quality crop,” said Lauren Dees, marketing manager with Lake Park, Ga.-based Generation Farms.
Yields may be down this year compared to 2017, but that won’t affect product quality, Dees said.
“The yields weren’t where we needed them to be, but we’ve got a good, strong onion,” she said.
“We were concerned at the beginning of the year when we had some snow, but it didn’t affect our crop.”
Generation Farms grows conventional and organic onions, including Vidalia sweets, reds, whites and yellows.
January cold is only a distant memory, where the onion crops are concerned, said Kristina Lorusso, Vero Beach, Fla.-based business development director for Los Angeles-based Giumarra Cos.
“This year, for the Vidalia season, south Georgia had a pretty big snowstorm,” she said.
“The onions were already planted, so there was concern over whether that might have affected onions, but it doesn’t look like it has. We’ve got good size. Jumbos are usually preferred size for bulk, so we’re looking very good.”
Last year, Prosser, Wash.-based Sunset Produce LLC had to plant later than scheduled, because of weather issues. This year, everything went in on time, but there have been some hurdles, said Brenden Kent, vice president.
“We’ve had some cool weather in Washington, so I don’t know if we’re much ahead this year of last year,” he said.
“We’ve had some challenges with wet conditions and cool weather, so I don’t think the stands will be as good as last year. Some fields look better than others.”
In Texas, Weslaco-based The Onion House LLC was well into its deal in the Rio Grande Valley by the end of April, said Don Ed Holmes, owner.
“We’re about three weeks into the deal,” he said.
The season had a bit of a rocky start, with season-ending volumes out of Mexico serving as a weight on prices, Holmes said.
“Mexico had some big volumes, but all of a sudden, they’re finished, basically, so prices are up a little, and we’re encouraged this thing will continue to pick up, price-wise,” he said.
“Idaho, Oregon and Washington are basically finished. Now, our competition is basically Imperial Valley and Georgia.”
Overlap had become commonplace, said Steve Smith, president of Pleasant Grove, Utah-based National Onion Inc.
“It seems once Tampico (Mexico) and Texas come in and Southern California come in, there’s a lot of onions,” he said. “We all overlap each other quite a bit. It used to be every place had its slot.”
Demand should increase as warm weather kicks across the U.S., Holmes said.
“It’s finally getting warm, and I think that will bring people out of hibernation, and we’ll see increased demand,” he said.
Holmes said he anticipated firm markets.
As of April 27, 50-pound sacks of yellow onions from the Columbia Basin in Washington and the Umatilla Basin in Oregon were $8.50-11 for colossal; $6-7.50, jumbo; and $4-5.50, medium. A year ago, the same product was $6-7, jumbo; and $5-6, medium.
“Onion markets for this year and last year are very similar,” said Trent Falkner, salesman with Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos.
“Several regions have been going at a time, reducing demand out of each area, which led to cheaper-than-desired markets.”
The crop out of California’s Imperial Valley looks similar in demand and pricing this year as last, Falkner said.
“We ran into a lot of storage onions in the Northwest region last year, which kept the market low,” he said.
“This year, we are running into a longer-than-normal Texas/Mexico region. When more than one growing region is shipping at a time, you tend to see cheaper/saturated markets.”
Growers in Idaho and Eastern Oregon are optimistic, said Herb Haun, chairman of the Parma, Idaho-based Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee.
“This year, we have experienced ideal planting weather and the 2018-19 crop is healthy and growing well,” Haun said.
“All of the area reservoirs have plenty of reserves, so irrigation won’t be a problem for us.”
Predictions aren’t easy to make, though, said Wayne Mininger, executive vice president of the Greeley, Colo.-based National Onion Association.
“It looks good now, but that’s the reality on April 27,” he said.