Texas onion growers, shippers and marketers said they know their state is a huge — and profitable — market.


And, they’re right in the neighborhood.


They’re fighting for a share of that marketplace, which enables them to cut down on transportation costs and create other efficiencies.


Their product is coveted, they say.


“Texas supports Texas growers,” said Mike Martin, president of Rio Queen Citrus Inc., Mission, Texas.


“I’m sure that is true in most any state, but Texans are particularly proud of their home state. We can’t block out other producing areas, but we find that we have good recognition in Texas and we are at a competitive advantage in our home state among our retail customers.”


Want to own Lone State markets


David DeBerry, president of David K. DeBerry Inc., Edinburg, Texas, said his company tries to generate as much business close to home as possible.


“We do as much good business in Texas as we can,” he said. “It’s a natural tendency with all producers to do as much as they can to do as much as close to home as possible.”


The company always has had a simple philosophy where Texas markets are concerned, DeBerry said.


“It’s this: I want to own Houston, San Antonio, Lubbock, Dallas-Fort Worth — any demographic area that has enough population to have centered retail warehouses or wholesale grocers,” he said.


“We want that. We target the close-in stuff.”


It just makes good business sense, DeBerry said.


“The quicker stuff gets there, the fewer problems you have,” he said. “After you get paid, it’s accounts you can visit easier personally. You can tour 20% of your customer base in two or three days.”


Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Produce Cos. Inc. shares that philosophy, said Tracy Fowler, general manager of the company’s potato and onion departments.


“We definitely try to go in a couple of months ahead and set contracts and get the business on the books,” said Fowler, whose company partners with Weslaco, Texas-based A-W Produce Co.


“When retailers and wholesalers commit like that, you already know what you’re shipping for the first few weeks.”


The idea is to go in early enough and finalize a deal everybody can live with, Fowler said.


“Everybody’s fighting for that Texas market, but you don’t do it by setting too low a price,” he said.


“You set margins you can live with. We do everything, from offering store promotions, helping stores set up bin displays — we’ll have a merchandiser work with the stores if they’ll take that.”


Second most populous state


Texas is a great market for the Weslaco-based Onion House, said Don Ed Holmes, the company’s owner.


“As we get bigger and bigger, you get Houston and Dallas that are big markets for us,” he said.


“With Texas being the second-most-populous state, we’re right in the backyard, so it’s definitely our No. 1 market. But we work to sell our onions all over the eastern U.S. We work hard to sell them in Texas and in the South, too.”


Texas retailers are always looking for product they can use in their homegrown programs, said Bill Burns, owner of Burns Farms Inc., McAllen, Texas.


“The Wal-Marts and H.E.B. chains certainly buy a lot or most of our onions, anyway,” he said.


It should come as no surprise, said Chris Eddy, sales and operations director for Edinburg, Texas-based Frontera Produce LLC.


“You know how those Texans are,” he said.


“They’re pretty proud of their state. And I’m sure that’s true wherever you go. The consumers and shoppers like to see product that’s grown in their backyard or home state.”