( Photo by Lars Blankers on Unsplash )

Mexico and Canada continue to snap up Idaho-Eastern Oregon onions, although grower-shippers from the district say they are working to develop other export markets.

“There are many opportunities for export, including Canada, Mexico, and many Asian countries,” said Samantha Cypher, editorial and publicity specialist with the Bancroft, Wis.-based Russet Potato Exchange Inc., which markets onions from Idaho-Eastern Oregon. 

“Depending on the weather during the growing season, some years there can be a very high demand for onion exports.”

“It is much more cost-effective to export from the Northwest, due to proximity of ports and freight advantages,” Cypher said.

“I expect this season to see a high amount of exports,” she said.

Canada and Mexico are the dominant export markets and, indeed, are the only export markets for Payette, Idaho-based Central Produce Distributors, said Dan Phillips, sales manager.

How much crosses each border depends on what happens in each of the destination countries, Phillips said.

“It will depend on internal crops,” he said. “Last year, Mexico’s market was really good because they were really short on onions. We always hope demand exceeds supply, in the states or out.”

Other U.S. onion-growing regions also will have a say, Phillips noted.

“New York has developed their stuff, where they service a lot of eastern Canada,” he said.

Mexico and Canada are natural export draws, because logistics to more-distant markets can be problematic, said Kay Riley, partner with Nyssa, Ore.-based Snake River Produce.

“Going to the Pacific Rim, it’s very difficult to compete with Washington because they’re closer to the port,” he said. “Mexico, Canada are the big markets for us. Mexico is growing. Canada is kind of just depending on the condition of their crop.”

Production dipped in Holland, which led to tight supplies in Europe, which created opportunities for Idaho-Eastern Oregon suppliers, Riley said.

“Holland wasn’t present in some of the markets we can reach in Central America,” he said. 

“There are several countries in Central America, and there’s starting to be more stuff shipped there out of our area.”

Central America is becoming a destination for Hailey, Idaho-based ProSource Inc., said Corey Griswold, COO.

“Currently, we are doing a bit into Central America, a little into Panama, but I think Central America will be a spotty thing,” he said.
 “We do have pretty consistent export into Canada and Mexico during our packing season.”

Central America ordinarily depends heavily on Mexico for onions, Riley said.

“One weather event, and that could change,” he said.


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