Big onion volumes from Peru and the Western U.S., combined with sluggish demand, spelled weak markets that could last through the end of the year.
Both the Treasure Valley and the Columbia Valley in the Northwest produced big, high-quality crops this year, said John Vlahandreas, onion sales manager for Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC.
But even with big volumes, movement has not picked up as it typically does, Vlahandreas said.
“We haven’t seen as big a push as we’ve had the past few years. Demand has been off a bit.”
And with big crops in China and Holland, shippers haven’t been able to export as much as they’d like to markets like Taiwan and Japan, Vlahandreas said.
In the first half of November, Bland Farms, Glennville, Ga., was transitioning from the Ica region of Peru to the country’s Arequipa region, said owner Delbert Bland.
Quality has been excellent and sizing normal, with plenty of colossals shipping, Bland said.
Through October, 2,100 loads of Peruvian onions had shipped to the U.S., up from 1,800 loads last year at the same time. On top of that, Bland said about 1,000 loads were in sheds or on the water in early November, up from 600 last year.
Reidsville, Ga.-based Shuman Produce Inc. expects ample volumes of Peruvian sweets through mid-February, said president John Shuman.
Shuman reported excellent quality out of Peru this year, thanks to good growing and harvesting weather.
Weslaco, Texas-based The Onion House LLC was shipping onions from Colorado and Utah in November, said Don Ed Holmes, the company’s owner.
Holmes also reported good quality this fall, but said demand could be better.
“The crop looks good, but movement’s been a little slow. There’s a big domestic supply but not big demand.”
It could be early December before movement picks up and markets start to strengthen, Vlahandreas said.
On Nov. 4, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $15-16 for 40-pound cartons of jumbo granexes from Peru, down from $17-19 last year at the same time.
Holmes hopes that Washington and other West Coast states are able to relieve some of the supply pressure by shipping more onions overseas this season.
“It’s a good year to promote onions.”
Volumes were up both in Peru and in the Western U.S. this fall, and sales were down about 15% industry-wide as of early November, Bland said.
“Prices are coming down and demand is slow. And there’s not the same demand from Peru’s neighbors. Colombia, Venezuela and Chile are usually buying more.”
Demand for Peruvian product could pick up as holiday sales pick up and volumes taper off, but Bland Farms had already decided by early November not to source onions from Chile or Argentina this season because of the glut of product in the pipeline, Bland said.
Instead, Bland Farms will transition straight from Peru to Mexico.
Shuman doesn’t expect prices to move much one way or the other heading into 2015.
“We expect the market to remain steady thru the end of the year with promotable supplies for the holidays.”