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Onion Expert

Water Situation in World’s Largest Onion Growing Region

Shay Myers - Friday, July 04, 2014

While California is short on water, as far as onions are concerned, it looks like they will not be short on supply.  Much like the case in many onions regions, onions are the number one cash crop and consequently are the last to go without water. 




Oregon and Idaho are in similar situations as far as water is concerned, although the NW is much further from harvest compared to California.  In the Snake River Valley that runs through Eastern Oregon and Western Idaho, there are thousands of acres left fallow this year.  That doesn’t mean there are no onions planted in valley regions though.  In fact, it is because of these fallow lands that many farms are still hoping to be able to finish their onion crop.  By taking water normally allotted for these fields that are not being irrigated, they are hoping to finish their onion crop.  It is not so much a question now of the quantity of water available to these farmers, instead it is a function of the length of time that the water will be flowing for irrigation.  Some estimates are saying July 27th others are speculating water availability until August 10th.  It doesn’t seem like much, but the 14 days in difference between the 27th of July and the 10th of August will literally make or break the onion crop on thousands of acres.   

Transportation is currently a major issue and will continue to be a MAJOR challenge for the foreseeable future.  Reefer rates from California to East Coast locations are as high as $9,000 -$10,000 and even more so are hard to find.  Railex is helping to alleviate some of this pressure for those that can use its service.   


Prices have firmed up significantly on all colors and sizes over the past 2 weeks.  This is due in part to the Imperial Valley finishing up and reduces the number of shippers with product available for shipment.  July is traditionally the most expensive onion month of the summer with low double digits quite common.  It looks like this may be the case this year as well, but only time will tell.     

What is the onion market doing?

Shay Myers - Friday, April 04, 2014

Supplies in the Northwest are down again with total daily shipments well below 200 loads.

That is just 70% of just 2 weeks ago. Supplies are very manageable, but higher prices and fear of the potential the downside has many buyers staying away from the phone. Instead many are buying short to avoid any potential risk. NW supplies will be available for another 2-3 weeks; after which Southern Texas and Imperial Valley California will enter the market. Prices may spike up again between now and then, but only if there is significant rainfall in either of the two areas just mentioned.




Planting has just ended in the Northwest. This field E. Oregon will be ready for Harvest in Mid-August.

The Perfect Storm?

Shay Myers - Wednesday, February 19, 2014

This is going to be an interesting report. I want to lay out all the factors that are coming in to play with the onion market.


  • First, supplies started out lower due to inclement weather in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington during the 2013 storage crop season. Yields were down somewhere between 15 and 20% (that is about 10,600 loads)


  • Second, shrink is up 10-15% (that is about 7,500 loads) due to storage problems attributed to the high amounts of rain that fell on the same NW crop.


  • Export demand to Asia and Latin-America has been higher than “normal”. NW onion exports are up 20% over last year (that is 1,357 loads).


  • Mexican exports into the USA that normally starts in mid-late January have been virtually non-existent. As of this writing Mexico has shipped 89% fewer loads when compared with last year (that is 1,176 loads).


  • As much as 80% (that is 1,800 loads) of Washington’s and Oregon’s over-winter crop has been destroyed due to harsh winter conditions. While these loads are not marketed until mid-late summer, they are primarily used to supply area processors. Not having this supply available will force processors, who also fresh pack, to reduce the number of onions they sell on the fresh market now.


Additional factors abound, but they are of a more speculative at this time. If we use the “hard numbers” above we could be short over 22,000 loads. Although this may seem too high, for argument sake we can cut the number in half to 11,000 loads and still see the ramifications. This number represents nearly 2 months of consumption of the entire USA!

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