(Sept. 13) Weather problems put a significant dent in the Idaho onion crop, which should be reflected in strong pricing throughout the deal, grower-shippers and brokers said.

J.C. Watson Co., Parma, Idaho, started harvesting Aug. 28, about a week later than usual, said Nancy Carter, vice president of sales and marketing. By the week of Sept. 11, Watson already was shipping in volume, with 50 loads expected to ship by the end of the week, Carter said. She reported good quality on the early crop.

“We ramp up pretty quickly once we get going,” she said. “The crop looks about normal, with slightly more medium-sized onions than normal.”

Carter expected a continuation of the strong markets Idaho enjoyed at the beginning of the deal.

“It’s a nice thing for us to segue out of California with a strong market,” she said. “They set the stage for us. Right now demand is good, and it looks like it will hang in there.”

PRICES

On Sept. 12, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $20 for 50-pound sacks of super-colossal yellow Spanish hybrids, up from $14 last year at the same time. Colossals were $14 and jumbos $10, up from $10 and $8, respectively, last year at the same time.

Through Sept. 9, about 1.8 billion pounds of onions had shipped nationwide year-to-date, down from about 2 billion last year at the same time.

Growers who sell their onions through broker Garnand Marketing Inc., Twin Falls, Idaho, started digging about Labor Day, about a week to 10 days later than usual, said Gary Garnand, president. While he predicted shippers would have enough product to meet demand, it won’t come without a price.

“Prices were high starting the deal, and I think they’ll continue to be high,” he said.

Especially scarce are colossals and super-colossals, Garnand said. A wet, cool spring and a hot July conspired to reduce sizing as well as yields, he said.

QUALITY

While sizing and yields are down this year, Garnand said quality is not.

“We’ve had excellent results on what we’ve shipped out,” he said. “The super-colossals and colossals aren’t there, but the jumbos and the whites and reds look very good.”

Some growers who sell through Wada Farms Marketing Group, Idaho Falls, Idaho, began shipping the last week in August, said Kevin Stanger, senior vice president of sales and marketing. Others didn’t begin until the week of Sept. 4. On average, he said, growers were about a week behind.

Stanger reported “pretty good” quality and demand for early shipments out of Idaho.