Onion supplies are transitioning from summer onions into storage crop onions and the market looks stronger than it traditionally does in August.
John Harris of Fort Morgan, CO-based Paradigm Fresh notes that while California still has some onions, they’re largely Long-day onions in Northern California and other regions such as New Mexico have wrapped up production. But Washington, Idaho and Oregon have all begun with their onion supplies. “New York just started some onions and Michigan should have some this week and Canada has started transplant harvest of onions,” says Harris.
And while acreage is down somewhat, tonnage may be healthy this fall. “Canada had a wet cold spring and they’re expecting volumes to be down in general tonnage. But Washington has about 1,000 acres less than last year. They have had a good growing year and expecting to have the same, if not slightly more, volume than a year ago,” he says. “Idaho and Oregon are similar to last year and they’ve also had good growing conditions so they might have slightly more tonnage.”
No onion oversupply
Meanwhile demand is stronger than usual for August. “August tends to be sluggish and it’s not been that way,” says Harris. “There’s good demand and not an oversupply and we’re holding better than average markets. Demand and supplies are balanced right now.”
And that’s factoring in foodservice demand. “It seems to be coming along despite COVID-19 challenges. They’re back about 80-85 percent of normal,” he notes. “Overall we’re not consuming less onions. They’re just being distributed slightly differently.”
That means markets are very stable and above average for August. “Based on everything that’s happened including the recall of onions a few weeks ago and COVID-19, we should be pretty happy with the way the market sits. I’d say pricing is a couple of dollars better than a year ago,” says Harris.
Red onion recall
Indeed, the recall that began on red onions two weeks ago is still being investigated and Harris says it’s unique to the industry. “Onions have never had a foodborne illness like that,” he says.
And looking ahead, Harris notes that in the next few weeks, supplies will start outdoing demand, though fall 2020 looks different than usual.
“Typically, at this time of year, school is back in session. This year it’s different with so much online learning and modified schedules,” says Harris. “I think consumer shopping is going to be up this year because kids are eating lunch at home rather than at schools. I’m not sure how much that translates to more onion consumption, but it changes some buying habits. It’s more times in the produce section and more opportunities to pick up onions.”