The onion season has so far been mostly beneficial to some growers in Oregon. Both the yellow and red onion markets have been favorable for the most part, with exports on the yellows being especially strong this year. It's one reason that Northwest Onion Company, based in western Oregon, has almost sold out of their yellow onions for the season.
"We are just about finished on our yellow onions," noted Duane Olson of Northwest Onion Company. "There were some good export deals early in the season so we moved more volume early on. One of the drivers for the exports was the drought in Europe last year. This resulted in some buyers taking more onions than they usually would."
He added that there are still good supplies of red onions left, just as the market is hitting a strong point. "The market has been decent on reds for most of the season, although there is a spark in the market currently. Supplies are a little tighter right now as we have fewer growers than we used to and we hope to finish our red onions by March. The market on yellows is also picking up after a slow start on the domestic market, although we are just about finished on those."
Transplants offer earlier season starts
Aside from the early brisk movement on the export market, another reason why the company's yellow onion supplies are finishing up now has to do with the earlier harvest window. Northwest Onion Company has been using transplants, allowing them to enter the market earlier than traditionally.
"We have been growing transplants for several years now," Olson explained. "This allows us to start our season in mid-August rather than mid-October. This season, it meant we had good volume to move early for the exports."
Focus on reds for domestic market
Despite the success of the yellow onion export market this season, Olson noted that the company's main focus in on specializing in red onions. He said it's difficult to compete with the larger volumes coming from other growing areas in the region and therefore Northwest Onion Company play to their strengths in the red onion market.
"It's hard to compete on yellows with Washington, Idaho and eastern Oregon," Olson shared. "That's why we have been concentrating on our red onion programs domestically. Most of our business is in export containers by full truckload volumes. This strategy has worked out well for us as we gradually become known for our specialized varieties."