Supplies of onions are good and demand on the foodservice side of the business is climbing back up.
“Over the last two to three weeks, I feel like things are getting back to normal with foodservice,” says John Harris of Fort Morgan CO-based Paradigm Fresh. “I would call it approximately 80-90 percent of normal. It’s just been a slow and steady rise over the course of the last eight weeks. Grubhub and DoorDash and deliveries like that kind of got things going again and now most places in the country are open in some sort of capacity.”
At the same time, retail demand has evened out again. “The last couple of weeks of March, retail demand was kind of ridiculous really. It was very high,” says Harris. “And by the end of April, it normalized, and it has stayed that way.” He also adds that programs such as the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box program, which has been including bagged onions in boxes, has helped increase demand on retail-style packs.
California coming through
Overall, Harris says supplies are good for onions and that this year looks better than last year at this time since California has a good crop. “They lost a lot of their crop last year due to a hailstorm around this time,” he adds.
In terms of regional production, New Mexico is starting to finish up its winter crop and getting into its spring season onions. “When that happens usually, the size profile changes a tiny bit and there tends to be a week or so gap between what they have. We’re running into a lot of shippers that say they have one or two colors but not another color,” he says.
As for pricing, pricing on medium reds and yellows, which are tighter in supply currently, is a few dollars higher than on jumbos. “And the white market has been, compared to average years, a bit low,” says Harris. “We’re trading in the $10-$12 range. But with some gaps coming, there seems to be an increasing market on those.” He adds that the market is strengthening on medium yellows and both sizes of white onions while jumbo and colossal yellows are holding steady in pricing.
Looking ahead to the fall 2020 crop, Harris feels things look good coming out of the Northwest. “They had nice growing conditions—not too hot or cold,” says Harris. “I know some onions were lost here in Colorado. We had some wind and some really cold weather in the early spring, so I think it’s approximately 350 acres lost. It’s not a ton in overall supply but it happened.”
Should the weather hold and from here on out regions aren’t hit with sudden weather events such as a hailstorm or extreme rain, Harris anticipates steady movement until Washington starts its harvest in August.