“The market is up—supply of onions seems to be steady in all sizes and colors. The quality is excellent. But the biggest challenge right now is just the transportation out of the northwest,” says John Harris of Fort Collins, Co.-based Paradigm Fresh. “I don’t know why we have such a shortage of trucks. I think it’s a shortage of drivers. But there are just not enough trucks in the country to take care of the demand so we’re all paying upwards of $3/mile in the northwest and that’s twice as much as we’re used to paying.”
In the 15 years Harris has been in the industry, he says the last three months dealing with this issue have been the most challenging he’s ever seen. “And not just a little bit more challenging. It’s infinitely more complicated,” he says.
Limited truck types
One factor is the type of truck used in colder weather of course. “Right now we’re all relegated to reefer trucks only because of temperatures,” he says. “So we only have 30 per cent of the trucks out there that we can use.” He anticipates some relief by the second quarter of 2018 when shippers can use flatbeds again to transport onions. “But in the 4th quarter of 2018, we’ll be right back here I think,” he says.
Meanwhile pricing is up significantly on FOBS. “Jumbo yellows are between $8-$9 while medium yellows are around $5. Jumbo reds are holding steady between $7-$8 and medium reds are hanging around $6 FOB,” he says. “Jumbo whites are pretty steady between $16-$18 and medium whites are $15-$16.”
In the short term too as the holiday season approaches, packing can be challenging as well.
“This time of year a lot of sheds are closed for multiple days in a row between Christmas and new Year’s. And it gives us a problem in terms of the supplies that are available out there because there’s so much stuff that isn’t being packed,” says Harris. “Things get a little tight around this time and transportation is hard because drivers are taking time off and we usually see the market tighten or go up between the end of next week and through the 10th of January before it gets all straightened out. I’d expect to see the market going up.”
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