(Aug. 26) This year’s Idaho-eastern Oregon onion crop is shaping up to look a lot like last year’s.

Some extremely hot weather in July together with a fairly stable acreage count — both components of last year’s crop — were expected to result in smaller sizing early on and a slightly below-average yield. But by all accounts, onion quality is good.

This spring’s prospective planting report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, Washington, D.C., showed eastern Oregon growers planted 11,500 acres for 2003, down 500 acres from 2002. Idaho onion growers planted 7,900 acres, down slightly from 8,100 acres in 2002.

Troy Seward, general manager and sales manager at Golden West Produce LLC, Nyssa, Ore., said in mid-August that the overall crop size looked about average although with onions a bit on the small side. He said growers had to contend with a week-and-a-half-long heat spell in mid-July that affected onion size. That could mean a reduction in the percentage of colossals and super colossals, but jumbos will remain in abundance.

“And because we’ve had dry conditions and haven’t had any rain, that should help with quality,” Seward said, adding that his firm expected to have marketable onion volumes available by Sept. 1.

Nancy Carter, vice president of sales and marketing at J.C. Watson Co., Parma, Idaho, offered a similar assessment.

“We had to go through 19 days of heat in excess of 100 degrees. It hasn’t affected the quality of the crop, but it may affect the size,” Carter said.

Bob Komoto of Ontario Produce Co. Inc., Ontario, Ore., said that while very few regional growers had to contend with an overabundance of rain diminishing onion quality, the potential scarcity of irrigation water presented an opposite concern at one point.

“For a while there, the prediction on water was rather dire,” Komoto said. But in the end, he said, it appeared that regional reservoirs would be providing sufficient water for irrigation through the end of August.

Snake River Produce Co. LLC, Nyssa, met its early August forecast that it would have marketable volumes around Aug. 15-18. The company ran its packing operations for a half-day on Aug. 15 and had moved to full days by Aug. 18. Those onion shippers with product available during the second half August discovered favorable marketing conditions.