As Peruvian sweet onions hit retail shelves, grower-shippers report a smaller-than-normal crop and smaller sizes, with few colossal onions available.

“The volume out of Peru will be reduced for the remainder of the season, and the market’s going to tighten, particularly on larger-sized onions,” said Brian Kastick, president of Savannah, Ga.- based Saven Corp., which packs under the OsoSweet label.

Saven began its Peruvian onion season Aug. 1, and Kastick expects it to continue until early January.

He blames the lower yields on three things: Peru’s weather was challenging on the front end of the crop, which led to lower yields; South Americans are competing for the same onions; and fewer Peruvian onions were planted when it became clear the Vidalia crop would run into September.

“Those three factors are coming together to make shipping very light from mid-November through the end of the year,” Kastick said.


Low volumes, but good quality

The good news, he said, is the Chilean sweet onion season, which starts Jan. 1, promises plenty of volume and opportunities for promotions.

“Saven Corp./Oso Sweet is the only major grower in Chile this year,” said Kastick, who plans to offer all the company’s sweet onions in display-ready cartons.

“People can use them for 3-pound or 5-pound bags or even bulk product, and keep refilling it,” he said.

Delbert Bland, president of Glennville, Ga.-based Bland Farms LLC, is also harvesting in Peru after a long and “very good” Vidalia season, marked by good-quality onions that stored well.

“Supplies out of Peru are not plentiful by any means, but quality is very good,” Bland said Nov. 1.

By mid-November, he expected to move from the Ica region to the higher-elevation Arequipa region in southern Peru, which he said looks promising with good size and quality.

From Arequipa, Bland plans to transition to Mexico in January, where the harvest may begin “a little earlier than normal.”

Marty Kamer, partner and sales manager of Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc., Greencastle, Pa., said the quality of his Mayan Sweet onions from Peru is good but sizes are smaller than expected.

Barry Rogers, president of Grant, Fla.-based Sweet Onion Trading said he’s excited about his second test crop of sweet onions out of Central America.

“Early reports indicate the crop will do well, possibly producing some of the best sweet onions of the 2014 winter market,” Rogers said.

His new sweets will be packed to order under the Longboard Sweet Onions or Sunbrero labels and shipped from Florida to customers in the southeast and along the eastern seaboard.

Reidsville, Ga.-based Shuman Produce grows and pack Peruvian sweet onions as part of its year-round RealSweet program.

President John Shuman said the granex variety can only be grown in South America in the winter, and consumers instantly recognize it as sweet with its flatter shape and thin, bright yellow skin.

“These varieties continue to deliver consistent supply, flavor, shape and color to the sweet onion segment and serve to maximize sales,” Shuman said.