South Texas onions are looking great, if only the producers could get some money out of them.
“It's going to get better, but right now the onion market in south Texas isn't looking very good,” said Don Ed Holmes, president of The Onion House in Weslaco at the halfway point of the onion harvest
“Mexico, with a better than usual crop, just went on and on with their onions,” he said.
The cheaper storage onions from the Northwest, often called cooking onions, were also the cause of low prices in the Valley. “In fact,” said Holmes, “between the two, it pretty much ruined the market for us down here.”
At the end of April, it didn't pay to harvest the onions, and many producers were leaving them in their fields.
Holmes hoped, though, that when the Mexican onions and the storage variety were gone, there would be an upturn in the market.
The popular, “eat 'em like an apple” 1015's, on the market since late March, moved well early in the season, but in April, with a lesser demand, were bringing $7 for 40 pound cartons of jumbos.
The quality and yield of south Texas onions have been very good with the loss of no fields to thrips, the tiny leaf-eating insects that can harm the plant. With the dry weather, fungal diseases posed no problem either.
Nor was the lack of water a problem this year.
Although the onion producers had enough water to take care of their crop, they'll be hurting next year unless something happens to fill the reservoirs.
It is estimated that there are between 9,000 and 11,000 acres planted in onions in the four counties of the Rio Grande Valley, or 80 percent of the state's onions. About one-third of the acreage is planted in 1015s.
With long, warm days, the Valley is conducive to growing this popular vegetable and is responsible for the first U.S. spring onions in the super market.
Producers will be harvesting approximately 3.895 million hundredweight, which should offer a stimulating effect to the Texas economy. A six-week harvest can employ about 300 people.
Some of those employed by the onion industry are contract pickers like the Comacho Brothers, Juan David and Rolando, out of Uvalde. They own a loader and truck and follow the onion harvest. In April they were harvesting an 80 acre field in Alamo.
They will load 4,100 pounds of onions onto a truck and take them to the packing shed in Weslaco.
Now, if only the prices would go up. The Vidalias in Georgia have suffered with seed problems and too much rain. “And Mexico should finish up this week,” said Holmes. This will mean good news for Texas onion producers, who, along with the other farmers in the area, need a little good news.