Volumes down, prices up on Ontario onions

Ontario onion suppliers are seeing lower supply levels for the 2015 season, after last year saw a market flooded by strong yields and competition from western growers

Sarah Burroughsford and Jin Jung of Gambles Produce say that ideal growing conditions led to high yields on Ontario onions in 2014. Meanwhile, closed ports on the West Coast of the United States drove onions from that area east, further flooding the Ontario market.

That kind of competition has been absent this season, while Ontario’s yields have been damaged due to poor weather. “In spring there was a lot of rain and it was very hot,” says Burroughsford. “So a lot of seeds died on first planting.” Jung adds that this year’s crop has suffered from sizing issues as well. “Generally the onions are smaller sized than they were last year.”

Red onion sales suffer

High prices, decreased supplies, and customer expectations have cut sales volumes on Gambles’s red onions in particular. Jung reports that the smaller sizes of his company’s red onions have some customers expecting a similar decrease in pricing. “Last year we moved at least 30% more 10 lb. bags each week,” Jung says. “This year we’re struggling to keep pace.”

Jung and Burroughsford note that sales volumes on cooking onions have been largely unaffected, despite higher prices. Gambles cooking onions are currently selling for 20% higher per 10 lb. bag compared to the same time last year, but the company is consistently moving the same number of bags each week.

Specialty onion imports moving well

While Gambles’s red onions have taken a hit, the company is seeing good business from an expanded specialty product program.

Starting in 2014, Gambles has been selling peeled cipollini, white pearl, and red pearl onions, as well as peeled shallots, all of which the company imports from New Jersey. Gambles sells 5 lb. jars for wholesale, as well as 6 x 8oz. units for retail. Both Jung and Burroughsford report increased demand for the company’s peeled products over last year.

“I think more and more customers are just looking for convenience,” says Burroughsford, adding that wholesale customers in the food service sector are eager to save money by reducing labor costs that come with peeling.

For more information:
Sarah Burroughsford
Gambles Produce
Tel: +1 416-259-6397 ext. 7202
Email: sarah.burroughsford@goproduce.com

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