(March 27) A string of bad weather in the U.S. and Mexico that began last summer and has continued through the winter, combined with a worldwide shortage, has pushed onion prices to record levels.

And they won’t be back to normal anytime soon, perhaps not until late summer, some shipper-growers suggest.

“I know I’ve never seen such high prices sustained for so long, and I’ve been selling onions for 30 years,” said Steve McKasson, salesman for Garnand Marketing LLC, Twin Falls, Idaho.

On March 20, the U.S. Depart-ment of Agriculture reported prices of $37 for 50-pound sacks of super-colossal yellow granex onions from Mexico, up from $10 last year at the same time.

White onions were even more expensive. Fifty-pound sacks of medium and jumbo Mexican whites were $50-55, up from $6-8 last year at the same time.

“I’ve never seen onions at $50,” said Derrell Kelso Jr., owner and president of Onions Etc., Stockton, Calif., and a 20-year industry veteran.

Just as amazing, Kelso said, is the fact that his company is selling as many whites at $50 as it sells when they’re priced normally.

“It’s a huge testament to our Hispanic markets,” he said. “They have to have their white onions.”

The situation began in 2006, when heat and disease took a 15% to 20% chunk out of the North-west onion crop, limiting domestic supplies. Then poor weather in the fall and winter lowered Mexican production, keeping many onions that normally would have come to the U.S. in Mexico.

“Mexico has been crossing 50 to 75 loads a day, and it should be well over 100,” McKasson said.

Many Northwest storage on-ions have wound up in Mexico this year, Kelso said. He said it’s the first time he’s ever seen de-mand from Mexico give such a boost to prices for U.S. winter storage onions.

Soon, Texas’s fresh deal will begin, but grower-shippers warn that reduced acreage and poor weather would limit production and create delays.

“Typically Texas will have some onions by this time, but it hasn’t happened,” Bob Meek, chief executive officer of Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC, Idaho Falls, Idaho, said March 21.