(Oct. 8) With almost all the storage onions harvested across the country by mid-October, grower-shippers were reporting excellent quality and decreased volume from last year.

According to the Greeley, Colo.-based National Onion Association’s August newsletter, acreage is down nearly 3% nationwide from last year for the fall storage crop, and grower-shippers are optimistic about the steady pricing and orderly marketing season ahead.

Herb Haun, sales manager and vice president of Haun Onion Co., Weiser, Idaho, said the company was about 80% to 90% harvested and put in storage.
“We will be done harvesting by Oct. 15,” Haun said. “The drought and the heat did just about what we thought it would, so we are probably 10% down on size and easily 10% down on yield for the growing region.”

Haun said the company expected to be about 20% down in volume Oct. 15 compared to last year.

Grant Kitamura, president of Murakami Produce co., Ontario, Ore., said the company was about 85% harvested, which was a little ahead of schedule compared to last year because of the shortened crop.

“We will be about 8% to 10% short on volume this year. We went through some cold weather in the spring and extraordinarily hot weather in July,” Kitamura said. “That helped shorten the crop but helped quality, which is excellent so far.”

Haun said quality was about the best he could remember for quite a few years because rains in late August and mid-September helped set the skins and bring on good color. He said shrink would be at a minimum as well.

Kitamura said the Idaho-Eastern Oregon growing region as a whole, in which yellow onions represent 92% of the total onions grown in the area, is predicted to have about 10% fewer onions. He said Murakami Produce wouldn’t fill all its storage bins this fall because of the reduced supplies.

“That would be a cause for optimism about better, firmer pricing,” Kitamura said.

On Oct. 7, Robert Komoto, sales manager for Ontario Produce Inc., Ontario, said f.o.b.s for 50-pound bags of jumbos were $4.25-4.50. Haun said f.o.b.s were mostly $3.50 on mediums, $5.50 on colossal and $8 on super colossal.

“Prices are probably about the same as last year, but the difference was last year the market was on its way down,” Haun said. “This year, the markets seem to be very steady probably because of the fewer numbers of onions.”

Sizing appears to be good this year, too, but Haun said the super colossal took the biggest hit from the drought and the heat. Kitamura said the volumes of super colossal were adequate for now, but as companies get deeper into the storage season, supplies of super colossal should tighten.

Both Kitamura and Haun said one question left for this storage crop is that of exports. They said that depending on the West Coast port lockout and Washington’s inability to export onions, it was difficult to gauge what was in store for the rest of the storage onion season, which should last through March.