Idaho onion market high due to shorter supplies

The Idaho onion market is on the high side because supplies are more limited this year. Local growers were affected by a wet spring which caused some flooding in the region earlier this year. As a result, some crops struggled to get going for the summer growing season and stocks are somewhat down on normal. 

"80% of what is grown in the Idaho/eastern Oregon region are the Spanish Sweet Yellow onions," said Ken Stewart, of Four Rivers Onion Packing in Idaho. "The growing season was not kind. There was a wet spring followed by a summer with early extreme heat, so volume and sizes were reduced. Some flooding occurred in the lower valleys and the plants in those areas were not able to reach maturity in time for summer. With all the wet soil, growers got behind in production and supplies have been shortened."

Market high on back of short supply
With the shortage of supplies, the market in Idaho has been high for several months and it's expected to rise as demand increases ahead of the Holiday season. For growers, it has enabled some of them to recoup a portion of the losses stemming from the dip in production. 

"The market has been strong all Fall due to the shortage of supplies," continued Stewart. "The 50lb sacks have been in the $10 range and is expected to creep up in the next few months. This is a good market for our area. Growers are happy as they needed those prices to make up for the loss of some of their crops. Some have managed to harvest close to their average, mainly those that were not affected by the Spring flooding."

Sweet onions for Idaho?
While the majority of the regions' crop consists of the Spanish Yellow onions, Red onions have been increasing in demand and Stewart noted that there are efforts to develop a Sweet onion program to expand growers' portfolios.

"The Spanish Sweet onions grown in the Idaho/eastern Oregon region are a great cooking onion," he said. "They hold texture well, are perfect for dishes such as the 'Bloomin' Onion', as well as exhibiting a sweeter flavor profile once cooked. Red onions, which make up close to 15% of the entire crop, are seeing an increase in demand and are ideal in salads and sandwiches."

"Seed companies are always coming up with new varieties to test, including ones more resistant to disease as well as a Sweet onion varietal that will be compatible with the region's soils," Stewart continued. "The soil is a factor as to why it is difficult to grow varieties like the Vidalia sweet onion. Acids present in the soil here transmit to the onion plant, making them more pungent. Some trial plots of sweet onion have been in production for a few years and it is one avenue we see potential for growth into the future."

For more information: 
Ken Stewart
Four Rivers Onion Packing
Tel: +1 208-549-8300

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