The onion harvest in the Treasure Valley region in eastern Oregon and Idaho has just finished for the year. Crop yields and profile were normal according to Cameron Skeen of Baker & Murakami. "The harvest finished this past week, signaling an end to that part of the season," Skeen said. "Overall yields were close to historic average and sizing profile and quality were normal."
While Skeen was pleased with the crop profile, he noted that the market has been weak on yellow varieties. "The market has been disappointing on yellows all year long," he said. "We have seen good movement but prices are lower. Red and white onions are doing well and enjoying a healthy market. It’s unfortunate on the yellow market as there appears to be reason for optimism due to the global supply situation, however that hasn’t played out in our domestic market at this point. Everyone is being aggressive with movement on yellow onions and therefore prices are weak."
Looking ahead for the next few weeks
With the Holiday season approaching, the next few weeks will be crucial for onion growers. Demand is anticipated to strengthen and growers are waiting for the market to liven up. Transportation will be another consideration moving forward. The situation this year has so far been significantly better than last year's severe truck shortage. However, growers know that this can change, especially around the Christmas, New Year period.
"Demand should start to ramp up with the Holiday season," Skeen observed. "We are expecting the market to get busier although we have not seen that just yet. It remains to be seen how the market will react over the next few weeks," Skeen observed. "Transport continues to be a critical factor. In recent months, trucking availability has been adequate, however it might get tighter as the year progresses and we can no longer use flatbed trucks."
Continuing to improve new packing line
Last year, Baker & Murakami installed a new, state-of-the-art, automated packing line, complete with automated scales, graders and palletizers. It was a massive investment, one that they felt they needed to make in order to keep ahead of the game and rationalize long-term costs. This year, Skeen said that the company will continue to work on improving their process, because with such a technologically-advanced solution, there is much to learn.
"We had excellent results with our new line last year and this year our focus will be on refining that process," Skeen shared. "It's a steep learning curve but it will be much easier than last year when it was brand new. We are always looking to improve so we can better serve our customers. With our packaging, we are very pleased with what we put out in terms of uniformity and quality and we regularly receive positive feedback. There is certainly good reasons for optimism as we move forward with the season."