Onion growers anticipate strong market for smaller crop

Onion growers anticipate strong market for smaller crop

Texas onion acreage in 2019 will be 6,400 acres, off substantially from last year, because rains delayed plantings.

Growers also anticipate stronger market conditions this season, as short yellow onion supplies from Mexico drove up prices in late March to more than double year-ago levels.

This year’s onion planted area is down 1,300 acres from a year ago, said Dante Galeazzi, manager of the South Texas Onion Committee and president and CEO of the Texas International Produce Association. 

“It will be the smallest planting acreage-wise in Texas in nearly a decade due to rains pushing back our planting dates this year,” Galeazzi said in late March.

Light supplies of Texas onions were noted in late March, with shippers just beginning harvest.

Through mid-March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had not yet reported any shipments of Texas onions, compared with 7.6 million pounds shipped through mid-March a year ago. The USDA said shipments of Texas onions last season totaled 283.6 million pounds, or about 5.6 million 50-pound units.

Volume of Mexico onions crossing through south Texas was running far below year-ago levels through mid-March. 

The USDA said season-to-date shipments of Mexican onions were 70.9 million pounds, or 1.4 million 50-pound units, down from 145.7 million pounds or 2.9 million 50-pound units a year ago. 

Total shipments of Mexican onions last year were 445.7 million pounds, or about 8.9 million 50-pound units.

J&D Produce Inc. expects to start harvesting south Texas onions about April 3, said Jimmy Gower, sales representative for the Edinburg, Texas-based company. 

Gower said the cool and rainy weather may have held back onion sizing compared with normal. That could translate into less supercolossal onions but plenty of jumbos and medium-size onions, he said.

Market hot

A strong domestic market in Mexico was spurring prices for onions in the U.S.

March 25 prices for Mexican onions crossing into south Texas were $18-20, up from $6.50-8 per 50-pound sack of jumbo onions on the same date a year ago, according to the USDA.

South Texas market conditions on March 25 for jumbo white onions out of Mexico were $45-50 per 50-pound sack, up from just $7-10 at the same time year ago. The extreme shortage of white onions in Mexico helped drive the market for yellow onions higher, shippers said.

On March 25, market prices for light volume of Texas onions were $24 for 40-pound cartons of sweet onions; the USDA had not yet begun prices price reports for Texas onions a year ago.

Chuck Hill, sales representative for The Onion House LLC, Weslaco, Texas, said sales of Texas onions will be underway in early April with expectations of good quality and firm market conditions.