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Strong retail demand bumps up onion market


Domestic onion shippers are coming off a hot couple of weeks and expect strong demand well into February.

Retail and foodservice buyers usually replenish onion supplies in early January after the Thanksgiving-through-New Year holiday period, as freight rates come down from holiday highs, said Corey Griswold, COO of ProSource Inc., Hailey, ID.

“Strong demand created a bump in the market,” he said Jan. 17. “We expect the first three weeks of January to be the busiest of the year.”

He said prices have been around $3 higher than the end of 2018.

On Jan. 16, USDA’s Agriculture Market Service listed prices of $7-9 for 50-pound sacks of yellow onions from Idaho and Eastern Oregon and the Columbia Basin, WA, area. White onions were $26-30 per 50-pound sack from Idaho/Oregon and $20-24 in Washington.

Griswold said prices usually ease off in February, as demand drops and Mexican onion production picks up.

That may not be the case this year, said Shawn Hartley, vice president of sales for Onions 52 Inc., Syracuse, UT.

He said Mexico has had some supply issues, which has caused buyers there to import yellow and white onions from the U.S.

Hartley said that could keep U.S. prices steady for the next month.

“If Mexico keeps their onions in Mexico, the market could remain strong in February,” he said.

Griswold also said he’s keeping an eye on Mexico.

“The great unknown is Mexico,” he said, noting that the Tamipco area usually brings heavy volume to the market in mid-February, but that could stay in its domestic market if demand stays high.

Griswold said onion quality has been strong, and he expects that to continue through May with the storage crop.

After Tampico’s start, the next main production area is South Texas in mid-March, followed by California in late March and New Mexico a few months later.


Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services Inc.