Onion supplies are starting to build in North America.
“The Northwest is coming on with harvest. A lot of the summer onions are towards the end and storage onions will slowly start to come into harvest here for the next week or so,” says Jared Gutierrez of Columbia Basin Onion LLC., a grower/shipper based in Hermiston, OR. Most of the harvests are starting on time. “The summer onions may have been early which caused some sporadic sizing—with average or normal to some below average. But the storage onions seem to be on track,” he says.
Overall, Gutierrez estimates that volume on onions will be average to slightly below compared to last year.
Cooler temps helping quality
As for quality, that’s coming along as well. “Some summer early onions came in okay, maybe a bit smaller,” says Gutierrez. “We had a heatwave with temperatures into triple digits and that took its toll. Now that the weather is a bit cooler, it seems to be working out.”
Meanwhile demand has been good, albeit it inconsistent for onions. “It’s sporadic so it’s hard to gauge,” says Gutierrez. “One minute the mediums are pulling because they’re going to retail which has seen a big increase due to people buying and cooking at home more often. Demand for the jumbo or colossal, which is mainly for foodservice, has backed off a little bit. But then every now and then we get a surge for a bigger profile. It comes in pockets.” Overall though, he adds, the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box program has helped boost demand for the smaller profile onions which has been helpful to the industry.
Overall though, food demand is still leaving growers wondering. “Some people say it’s back 60 percent others say 40 percent. It’s hard to gauge because it depends on who has contracts. It’ll take some time to come back to 100 percent,” says Gutierrez. “Restaurants are one thing but foodservice for sports venues are also not there. People don’t take into consideration how much food goes into a sports venue.”
Pricing to stay average?
All of this leaves pricing as average though pricing pressure is coming with growing areas moving into harvest while New Mexico and California clean up their crops. “It brings pricing down a bit, but I don’t think it should come off,” says Gutierrez. “If we get foodservice back though, it will be a great market.”
Exports are also still to be determined. While shipments to Canada have been happening as well as to Mexico. With California finishing up supplies, Mexico is turning now to the Pacific Northwest for supplies. However, other markets are undetermined. “For the Asian Pacific Rim for example, I don’t know if there’s going to be as much demand as before,” says Gutierrez. “I don’t see it being there as it was previously.”