(Feb. 13) A big crop of onions from Mexico will compete fiercely with other deals for retail space, keeping markets depressed for at least the next several weeks, importers predict.

On Feb. 12, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $7-9 for 40-pound cartons of jumbo yellow grano onions from Mexico, down from $30 last year at the same time.

The large volumes from south of the border have come as something of a surprise, said David DeBerry, owner of David K. DeBerry Inc., Edinburg, Texas.

“Yields had been expected to be not quite as big as last year, which was a record-setter, but they’re running neck-and-neck with last year,” he said.

DeBerry began importing sweets from the Gonzalez, Tamaulipas, area Jan. 17, a typical start, DeBerry said. The deal should run until mid-March, when Texas is expected to take over, he said.

DeBerry reported ample supplies of high-quality colossals and jumbos shipping in mid-February.

Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc., Greencastle, Pa., won’t begin shipping Mexican sweets until early March, predicted Kurt Schweitzer, owner. Early variety onions from Mexico did not meet the company’s standards for sweetness, he said.

Instead, Keystone will market product from Peru and Central America the second half of February, Schweitzer said.

Markets were “pretty solid” until the second week of February, when large volumes from Mexico started to enter U.S. markets, said Michael Hively, general manager of Bland Farms LLC, Glennville, Ga.

Now, he doesn’t know when markets will pick up again.

“I hope to see it stabilize in the next few weeks, but I can’t say that it will,” Hively said. “When the quality’s really good, it means yields and volumes are really good, and you can’t have good quality, high yields and a good market.”

The excellent quality should at least mean brisk movement at retail, he said.

Bland expects to phase out its Mexican program and begin its Texas onion deal about March 1, Hively said.

With ample supplies of new onions from South America and storage onions from the Northwest still in the marketplace, markets are flat, DeBerry said.

“There are more supplies than what the market would like to see this time of year,” he said. “We’ll get down and slug it out and see what we can come up with.”

This season’s depressed markets are a direct effect of last season, when prices were through the roof, Schweitzer said.

“There was a lot of money in the pockets of growers,” he said, which led to increased acreage this season.