Greater domestic production of onions is just around the corner.
Currently, California and New Mexico are the main sources of onions. “California is still in the middle of its harvest and they do some storage of California onions. They’ll go well into the fall,” says John Harris of Fort Morgan Co.-based Paradigm Fresh.
Following that, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Canada and New York will start shortly with their volumes. “We are just about on the front end of a whole bunch of onions being available,” says Harris adding that the Northwest will have yellow onions starting next week with reds and whites to follow about 10 days behind. “Volume is expected to be heavy to medium sizes to begin with.”
Heat wave’s effects
What is undetermined is how the recent heat wave on the West coast affected, if at all, the onion crops of Washington, Idaho and Oregon. “They are expecting it to have an effect on yield. But at this point, nobody knows how much of an effect there will be,” says Harris. “Even though the crop will start coming off here in a few weeks, the lion’s share of it doesn’t really come off until September. So it’s about sizing but there could also be some crop loss.”
As for demand, it seems to be somewhat inconsistent. “It’s better this year than last year because for most places, COVID-19 is out of sight, out of mind. Foodservice business is back but not at 100 percent because of labor challenges,” says Harris. “And retail continues to be as strong as ever.”
The inconsistency seems to be almost month to month. “June was one of the slowest Junes I can think of. May was super busy and July has been really busy,” Harris says. “I’ve been doing this a long time and the market has always had a pretty nice flow to it. And now when it’s busy, it’s really busy and when it’s slow, it’s really slow. Nobody can quite put their finger on the ebb and flow of it.”
Higher pricing mostly
As for pricing, white onion supplies are tighter. “In most cases we have a $20 FOB market and that’s a strong market on whites. Reds are in the same boat with stronger pricing with $12 FOB on 25 lbs. And yellows have been an average market all year,” Harris says. “In the last two weeks, reds and whites have really gone up.” He sees this pricing and movement likely staying until the end of July, after which the newer growing regions will come on with product which will relax pricing a bit.
Meanwhile as many growers and shippers are experiencing across the country, there’s also frustration around truck availability to move onions. “When Canada, New York, Washington, Idaho and Oregon are ready to hit the marketplace with volume, that changes people’s buying habits,” Harris says. “There’ll be a lot of options in two weeks.”