Thanks to Mother Nature, domestic onion supplies may be less than anticipated.
“It looked like onions were going to be plentiful but where we are, the Columbia Basin, Washington and the northern part of Oregon, we had a lot of heat in the summer months,” says Jared Gutierrez of Columbia Basin Onion LLC., a grower/shipper based in Hermiston, Ore.“Other growing areas across the country received a lot of rain, which offset their crop profile and the Southwest has struggled with climate issues as well. All of this is going to change the market.”
That includes the global perspective as well. “The Netherlands for example is off on their onion yields. Some Asian countries are also off, so export demand is starting to pick up and I think there’ll be more exporting in the industry available to domestic growers this year,” says Gutierrez. “Things are changing.”
Overall, supply from the basin region is similar to last year, if not slightly lower. The heat wave affected the early summer onions and took the top end off of the long day storage varieties of onion.
While growers may be able to tap into greater export potential, for now, domestic demand is steady. “I think we’ll see better demand once the harvest is in and the doors are closed and we see what we have,” says Gutierrez.
All of this makes for even pricing. “I think it’s holding where it’s at and it’ll have a chance to rebound and show some strength,” says Gutierrez. “Pricing is the same or a little less than last year on yellows—reds are about the same, whites are down a bit from last year’s pricing at this point.”
The 2018 harvest should just be wrapped up as Columbia Basin heads to the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit, taking place in Orlando October 18-20. “For Columbia Basin this is our first time at the PMA,” says Gutierrez. “We’re just trying to get Columbia Basin known on a better scale and have people become more familiar with us. At our booth, #991, they’re going to see how we supply onions—including organic onions. We’re one of the larger organic onion suppliers in the U.S. We’re hoping to establish stronger relations with current customers and create new relationships with potential customers.”