( Courtesy Onions Etc. )

California’s onion season got underway in mid-April in the desert region around Brawley, and production in other regions of the state will get underway on-time around June 1, grower-shippers say.

“The crop is looking really good in size and quality,” said Megan Jacobsen, vice president of sales and marketing with Oxnard, Calif.-based Gills Onions, which focuses on fresh-cut and industrial markets.

Harvest began April 15 in Brawley, and Bakersfield — Gills’ largest growing region — will begin in the first week of June and run into early September, Jacobsen said.

Growing conditions have been “cooler” this year, which has been good for the crops, Jacobsen said.

“We’re seeing great crop because of the cooler weather,” she said. “Especially in the Central Valley and Bakersfield, this time of year can start getting hot, but temperatures have been in the 70s. That’s great, because the closer you get to 100, that kind of heat is a lot for the plant to take.”

Everything is on-time this year, she said.

Salinas, Calif.-based Coastline Family Farms just finished its Oregon crop and has been shipping out of Brawley since early May, said Robert Verloop, COO.

“Overall crop conditions out of Brawley are very good,” he said. “As we move deeper into the Imperial Valley program, there are some concerns about above-normal temperatures, but we have mitigation farming/harvesting and packaging methods including temperature-controlled storage to keep quality high.”

Supplies should be plentiful for retail customers, since the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the foodservice business, Verloop said.

With current market conditions closely tied to the pandemic, suppliers see retail sales up and a higher demand for “smaller size profiles than typical,” Verloop said.  

“Based on conversations with our key foodservice operators, we anticipate that the overall foodservice channel demand will increase as states continue to open up and consumers seek out their previously favorite restaurants.”

Due to lower foodservice demand, there are additional volumes available for retailers and wholesale markets, Verloop said. 

“Our primary product line consists of red and yellow onions in 50-pound bags, with a range of size from colossal, jumbo and medium,” he said.

Everything looked good for Fullerton, Calif.-based grower-shipper JBJ Distributing Inc., said John Castillo, buyer/salesman.

“It seems like everyone is pretty much on-pace,” he said. “They’re in Imperial Valley until mid-June and move to Firebaugh for a month or two.”

There haven’t been any weather issues, Castillo said.

“As far as I know, everybody seems to think we’re OK; I haven’t heard any bad news,” he said. “I know a little bit of rain pushed the stuff back a bit in Imperial Valley, but we’re doing pretty good. We’re moving a lot of onions. It’s a good market.”

Derrell Kelso, CEO of Stockton, Calif.-based Onions Etc., said he was anticipating a good year for onions.

“We’re mainly in Northern California, later than most people and won’t start until June 15-25,” he said. 

“It’s been a dry year, but we’ve got plenty of irrigation. It’s going to be sizing well. Everything is good.”

As of May 15, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 50-pound sacks of yellow grano onions from the Imperial Valley were $8-9 for supercolossal size; $8, colossal; $7-8, jumbo; and $8-10, medium. A year earlier, the same product was

$11.50-13 for supercolossal; $10-12, colossal; $9-10, jumbo; and $8-11, medium.

Markets should be healthy through the California onion season, Kelso said.

“It’s going to be interesting,” he said. “Last year, it was in the high teens — a once in a lifetime market. We’ve never seen anything close to that for that long. We don’t anticipate anything like that this year. It’s going to be interesting with all these USDA programs (that) have onions in them.” 

Related content:
Outlook good for California onions
California Onion business updates
California onion growers anticipate good quality, low prices