If there ever were a year to make money on onions, this could be it, marketers say.

“You’re not going to see any cheap onions until next September,” said William Foster, salesman with Willard, Ohio-based Weng Farms Inc.

For many growers, the crop went in late and yields were down, Foster said.

“You won’t see any cheap onions, and you’re not going to see any deals,” he said.

“It’s time for growers to make money this year and they need it, really. With (input) costs, these farmers need it. This is their year to make money.”

Quality won’t be an issue, however, said Kim Reddin, spokeswoman with the Greeley, Colo.-based National Onion Association.

“We’re looking at excellent quality this year, although our volume is going to be less than average and significantly less than last year’s bumper crop,” she said.

Prices were firm in early November, she said.

“Transportation, of course, is a concern in the Northwest, which limits movement and affects price,” she said.

Eaton, Colo.-based Fagerberg Produce Inc., which has 1,500 to 1,600 acres of onions, had to replant some acreage because of weather, but the company had its crop in storage by mid-October, said Alan Kinoshita, sales manager.

Fagerberg reported good yields, Kinoshita said.

“Sounds like a promising deal. Overall, according to national inventories, they could be down as much as 10 million bags.”

An official crop estimate isn’t due out until the NOA meets in early December, Kinoshita said.

Quality is good, if size is down, for Nyssa, Ore.-based Snake River Produce, said Kay Riley, general manager of the grower-shipper, who also serves as chairman of the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee.

Yields were down nearly 25%, Riley said.

“We had a very late cold spring, and wet,” he said.

“It stayed wet and cold through June and turned extremely hot in July and August.”

Grant Kitamura, partner in Ontario, Ore.-based Baker & Murakami Produce, also reported a very light crop.

“Yields were 25% to 33% off, and size profile is smaller,” he said.

In Washington, most growers had their crops in storage by early October, said Brenden Kent, general manager of Prosser, Wash.-based Sunset Produce LLC.

“Our crop looks good this year and the overall quality looks really good,” he said.

Weslaco, Texas-based The Onion House, which grows in Colorado, Utah and Mexico, as well as Texas, already saw above-average prices on jumbos in October, said Don Ed Holmes, owner.

“I don’t think I can remember onions in October for $11-12 a bag. Today, it’s still in the $10-11 range,” Holmes said Oct. 30.

As of Nov. 1, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 50-pound sacks of U.S. No. 1 yellow onions from the Idaho and Malheur County, Ore., district were $12-13 for super-colossals; $10.50-12, colossal; $9-10, jumbos; and $5-6, mediums.

A year earlier, the same product was $4.50-6 for super-colossals; $3.50-5, colossal; $3.50-4.50, jumbos; and $4.50-5.50, mediums.

Medium-sized onions likely will dominate the market this year, Holmes said.

Supplies from Peru were strong, said Stu Monaghan, division manager of Giumarra Southeast, a division of the Los Angeles-based Giumarra Cos.

“The Peruvian sweet onion crop has been outstanding — quality has been excellent, and volume will be consistent through the end of December,” he said.

 
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