Strong demand, good quality expected for import onions

Andy Nelson, 11/28/2012


Importers of Peruvian and Chilean onions expect strong demand and good quality heading into winter.

With Peruvian sizes on the small side this season, Melbourne, Fla.-based Sweet Onion Trading Co. has been leaning on retail promotions of medium-sized fruit, said Barry Rogers, the company’s president and chief executive officer.

“Peru’s been a challenge on size the whole time,” Rogers said. “We’ve had good ad action on mediums.”

Rogers reported normal Peruvian demand and weekly volumes in late November, with prices in the high teens and low 20s.

Even when Chilean product begins shipping in early December, those prices could stay fairly steady because of an expected 20% drop in Chilean volumes this season, Rogers said.

Reduced acreage is the cause for the Chilean decline, he said. Early reports indicated good quality out of Chile this season.

Markets could strengthen as winter nears, said Troy Bland, quality control director for Bland Farms LLC, Glennville, Ga.

“Looking at the western market, we feel like it’s hit a low point and should come up over the next couple of months,” Bland said.

On Nov. 27, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $19-20 for 40-pound boxes of jumbo granexes from Peru, up from $14-15 last year at the same time.

Bland Farms expects bigger sizes and larger volumes when its Peruvian deal switches from Ica to the south, Bland said. Southern Peruvian volumes should be on U.S. retail shelves about the week of Dec. 10.

“The Ica crop hasn’t been great, but we’re finishing on a high note,” Bland said.

Keystone Fruit Marketing, Inc., Greencastle, Pa., expects to ship Peruvian sweets into February and storage hybrids from Washington, Oregon and Idaho into March or April, said Marty Kamer, vice president.

Sizing on both import and domestic crops was running about a size smaller than normal in late November, but not enough to affect marketing, Kamer said.

With not only the winter holidays but the Super Bowl approaching, Kamer expected brisk movement over the next couple of months, a continuation of strong fall movement.

“Demand in November, December and January is great for onions,” he said.

In addition to Chile, Sweet Onion will be receiving late Peruvian onions in December from the country’s southern region, Rogers said. Whether sizing on the late Peruvian deal is better than the earlier Ica, Peru, deal remains to be seen.

“Southern Peru looks good, but we don’t know about sizing,” Rogers said. “The late Peruvian deal is a Vegas bet. That’s why we hedge it with Chile.”




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