In Texas, across U.S.: Spring onion crop off to good start

Mild weather across the U.S. spring onion belt, especially in Texas, could push production above the 1.07 billion-pound estimate, which would be a 2.5 percent drop from last year's harvest.

José Peña, Texas A&M Extension economist-management at Uvalde, says Texas will produce almost 40 percent of the country's spring onions, 425.9 million pounds. “Texas will lead the nation in spring onion production,” Peña said, “but the estimate is a 7.7 percent drop from last year.”

Peña says the Texas Wintergarden/Laredo region increased acreage this year, adding about 1,100 acres. Overall, however, U.S. plantings are down, 37,700 acres compared to 38,500 last year.

Harvested acreage, thanks to excellent weather, may top last year's 36,000 by a few hundred acres, Peña says.

“The U.S. and Texas crops are off to a good start,” he says.

Markets remain uncertain, Peña says, because of questions about Mexico's crop, but early season potential appears better than last year.

“Carry-in stocks of 29.8 million pounds are down 26.2 percent from last year's 40.4 million pounds.

“The lower carry-in stocks and a lower U.S. spring onion crop mean the season's estimate of total storage and spring onion supplies of 1.1 billion pounds will be down 3.3 percent from last year's 1.14 billion pounds, when markets improved, and down 7.2 percent from the 1.189 billion pounds of supplies at the start of the 2000 season, when markets showed weakness.”

Peña says neither South America nor South Africa will likely export spring onions into the United States.

“Normally, we import sweet onions from that far away when U.S. production experiences problems, such as adverse weather, and shortages are expected.”

Early imports from Mexico are opening at $13 to $15 for 50-pound bags of jumbos and $16 to $18 for 40 pound boxes of sweet onions, similar to the Texas super sweet variety.”

Peña says reliable estimates of the Mexican crop are not available, but acreage should range from 10,000 to 12,000, about the same as last year. He says the crop is making good progress and imports will gain momentum from mid-February into March.

“The harvest from the Rio Grande Valley should start in early-to-mid March and may compete with the tail end of harvest in the Tampico area of east Mexico,” Peña says. “Harvest in the Valley will hit full stride by early April.”

Peña says Texas onions, especially those from the Wintergarden area, will compete almost head-to-head with Southern California. “But California planted 7 percent fewer acres and expects to harvest almost 4 percent fewer acres than last season. California's reduced production may help the market during the Texas harvest season.”

In addition to Texas and California, Arizona, and Georgia produce spring onions.

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