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Steadier onion market this spring, summer after chaotic start

After a volatile early spring with price spikes and supply gaps, onion buyers should expect an orderly spring and summer, with lighter supplies and stronger prices than normal.

Yellow storage onions are wrapping up in the next month, and new crops from warm growing regions are smaller than usual.

Mike Mouisset, sourcing specialist for potatoes and onions for Pro-Act, Monterey, CA, said there’s a wide range in both quality and price coming from Washington and Oregon, at the end of their storage seasons.

“Yellows are a sloppy market as we’re getting toward the end of storage, so they’re trying to clean up supplies before California starts,” he said April 11.

California’s Imperial Valley should start at the beginning of May and run through that month, said Shay Myers, general manager of Owyhee Produce, Parma, ID, but he said growers planted about 30 percent to 40 percent fewer onions this season.

Then the San Joaquin Valley should start at the end of May and run through July, about when the new crop from the Northwest getting going.

He said the early spring was chaotic with light supplies leading to price spikes, but that’s eased off on yellow onions. Owyhee Produce sells its own Northwest crop and handles onions year-round from other areas.

The Northwest should have supplies for about another four weeks, Myers said.

According to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, prices were $10-12 per 50-pound sack of yellow from Washington and Oregon and $15-19 from South Texas.

Mouisset said reports from Texas are of very high quality, which commands higher prices.

Georgia has begun shipping sweet onions, but they can’t officially be marketed as Vidalia onions until the April 22 start date. Growers there say they planted a smaller crop this season.

White and red market

Buyers of white onions, however, are seeing very low supplies. USDA’s AMS reports $45-50 per 50-pound sack from South Texas. Red onions from storage are in the $12-14 range per 25-pound carton from Washington and $14-16 from Oregon, USDA reports, and $16-18 from South Texas on new crop.

Myers said white onions are a small part of the onion market, but with so few areas shipping them, buyers have few options.

Mouisset also saw limited supplies of both red and white onions keeping prices higher than usual.

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services