The California onion season is drawing to a close with the last onions now coming out of the northern San Joaquin Valley. The season, which began back in May, saw good supplies despite the extreme heat experienced during parts of the summer. Compared with 6767 trucks shipped to date last year, California has shipped 6620. US onion supply is now well centered in the Northwest.
"The last of the California onions are now being harvested in the Stockton area," said Gerry Valois of Western Onion Sales. "We started with the mild, sweet onions out of the Imperial Valley in late May. Gradually production moves northwards and finishes at the northern end of the San Joaquin Valley before much of the US supply fully transitions to places like the Treasure Valley in Idaho and other Northwest regions."
"The sweet onions are one of my favorites because they are so easy to use," he continued. "They are a short day onion and grow over the winter into early spring. Because sweet onions are milder, they can be used raw and are a great addition to salads and hamburgers."
Market was a challenge this year
Overall, the market was soft this year, with prices on the lower end for much of the California season. For those that were not able to complement their production with other products or with fixed price contracts, it would have been a challenging year.
"In terms of the market, it wasn't a great year," Valois noted. "Growers that diversified into other commodities, as well as ensure a profit through fixed-price contracts mitigated their exposure to the open market and therefore were ok."
Convenience packaging becoming more popular
As is the case with many fresh produce items now, onions that are processed and presented for convenience to the consumer are showing signs of growth. Valois also noted that smaller packaging is a trend that continues to gain strength. He added that the large netted bags are still the mainstay for wholesale, while sweet onions tend to be shipped in cartons.
"Growers are always looking to expand and explore ways in which to grow the category," he explained. "There is a trend away from the traditional packaging to convenience packs such as pre-diced and sliced. Consumers are short on time and it's more about assembling a meal with prepared ingredients. Smaller packaging is also trending although wholesale onions are still shipped in 50lb netted bags. The sweet onions are usually shipped in cartons which provides an opportunity to have a better label displayed."