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Moving into a transitional time

Shortage of jumbo onions in US keeps market elevated

“Right now, we’re still in Peruvian onions and supply will be good on those until about Feb. 15th to the end of February,” says Brent Bryson of Roberson Onion Co. out of Georgia. Then we’ll move into Mexico with sweet onions and yellow onions.” The crop from Peru started the beginning of September with a slower and tighter start than usual. “And then things became a little more available,” says Bryson. “The quality we’ve had is very good, and I think Peru was slowed by some weather.” 

John Shuman agrees. “Peruvian sweet onion supplies are good as we head into February, we expect good supplies into March,’ says Shuman of Reidsville, Ga.-based Shuman Produce, adding that Shuman is anticipating supplies from Texas mid-March. 

Photo: Roberson Onion Co. 

At the same time, onions coming from the Northwest region—Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Idaho—are likely to wrap up soon. “I think they’re having a short season, though Washington will be able to run until April or May,” says Bryson. “They won’t be able to go into June like they did last year.” 

"The crops have been very good this year," said Dominic Carnazzo, of Wada Farms Marketing Group, based in Idaho. "Washington and Oregon will continue to supply the market until they finish up at the tail end of March or the first week in April. Supplies from Oregon have been a little lighter this year, but volume from Washington has remained normal."

Carnazzo noted that the market is short on very large sizes. "Quality is very high but there is a general lack of the larger, 'super colossal' sizes, particularly from Washington," he said. "This is due to the weather during the growing season. It remained unseasonably cool right up until the harvest, followed by inclement weather in the early harvest period. Therefore, the onions never really had the opportunity to size up."

Strong market on jumbos
Due to the lack of very large sizes, the market on onions remains strong for this time of year. Not surprisingly, the highest prices are found on the Jumbos. "We are seeing decent prices for this time of year," Carnazzo continued. "Jumbo yellows from Washington are in the range of $8.00 - $9.00, while from Oregon, prices are $9.00 - $9.75." 

“The market looks to remain steady for now until at least the end of February. At that point, Mexico and Texas volume in February and March may put downward pressure on prices, depending on how much remains in storage in the Northwest,” Carnazzo said. “We have started seeing a small amount of onions arriving from Mexico, but they are mostly white and we won't see more volume or other varieties until the end of February.” 

Photo: Roberson Onion Co. 
Vidalia to come 
Meanwhile Roberson is gearing up for its own Vidalia onion crop coming this spring. “A lot can happen in weather before then, but the crop looks really good right now,” Bryson says. 

With average demand for onions right now, Bryson is seeing sweet onions going for $16-$17 FOB. “The yellow market is a little higher than usual. The red is right where it normally is—the market is a little high and that’s just due to the northwest,” he says, adding that one factor possibly pushing those prices higher is the ruling that as of December, trucks need to carry electronic logging devices (ELDs) as per the ruling from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. “I think a lot of people are going to be fighting for trucks,” adds Bryson. 

“The cost of the product is inflated by higher freight costs, and both suppliers and customers will feel the impact in the upcoming months,” says Shuman.

Overall that pricing is about the same as last year, though slightly higher on the conventional red, white and yellow onion market. 

For more information: 
Brent Bryson
Roberson Onion Co.
Tel: +1-912-375-5760

John Shuman
Shuman Produce
Tel: +1-912-557-4477

Dominic Carnazzo
Wada Farms Marketing Group
Tel: +1 (208) 542-2898

Written by Astrid Van Den Broek and Dennis Rettke.

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