US onion export down but new initiatives underway

The current low onion prices are a reflection of major production areas such as Idaho, Oregon, and Washington having slightly increased acreage this year. With increased onion supplies throughout 2014, the quality of onions is still above average, while shrinkage has decreased.

Idaho, Oregon and Washington are responsible for growing approximately 45,000 acres of onions while New York, Colorado and California create an additional supply of onions. The US onion industry exports a large volume of produce to Canada and Mexico; however the current market is experiencing a decrease in sales to South East Asia. “This season, sales to Taiwan and Hong Kong have been steady and fairly normal,” explains Stuart Follen of SL Follen. “Sales to Japan and South East Asia have greatly decreased. The strength of the US Dollar against the Japanese Yen has made USA product too expensive.”

US onion exports to the Asian market have always been smaller compared to Canadian and Mexican sales, Japan experienced great onion crop for 2014 allowing for a decreased amount of imported produce regardless of the exchange rate. “The Netherlands offer their onions at a reduced price, so South East Asia imports from them. It’s impossible for the US to compete at current market prices, so overall export conditions are very poor this season.”

Labour for the onion industry is becoming harder to procure and more expensive to maintain, therefore growers and packers are investing in new technology to reduce the need for labour. “We are far behind the Europeans,” states Follen, “and we look to them to see what methods of new technology we can adapt.”

One of the new methods being employed by US onion growers is investing in modern storages which allow onions to be stored for longer periods of time causing growing areas to overlap with the supplies. “California used to be finished with onion harvesting and sales by the middle of August, but by implementing modern storage facilities, they are finished their season in November,” reflects Follen, “Some Idaho shippers now ship from August into June.”

The demand for organic produce has continued to grow and is now being contemplated by growers within the US onion industry. “Certainly many are considering organic and are entering this market as we believe this trend will continue.”

For more information please contact:
Stuart Follen
SL Follen Company
Tel: 503.222.6164
Fax: 503.222.5839

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