During the 2018-19 Peruvian sweet onion season, Reidsville, Georgia-based Shuman Farms led the industry, importing nearly 1,100 containers of Peruvian sweet onions for U.S. distribution, says John Shuman, president and CEO of Shuman Farms. This season, similar production is planned for the company.
As of early August, the industry had seen a slower than normal start due to weather, causing early production to be slightly smaller in profile, producing a higher than usual percentage of mediums and smaller jumbos, Shuman says, adding that this also delayed scheduled container shipments from Peru.
"However, we are confident volumes will improve and we will be back to normal supplies and sizing by the end of August," he adds. "Quality on the early harvest has been excellent."
Shuman Farms planned to begin shipments of its RealSweet brand of Peruvian sweet onions by the end of August/early September.
"We are also continuing to grow our organics program and expect a good supply this year," Shuman says.
As it closed out its 2019 Vidalia onion season around Labor Day, Glennville, Georgia-based Bland Farms also shifted to its premium sweet onions from Peru, says Delbert Bland, president and owner of Bland Farms.
"We have initiated the harvesting of our sweet onions in Peru, in the region of Ica," he says. "Our first fields were harvested, fully mature, in the second week of July. After field curing, we started packing and shipping with success. The 2019 crop is growing under normal climate conditions."
"The onion plants are developing very well; the plants are robust, and they are reaching maturing stage with 12 to 13 leaves, developing nice bulbs (mostly Jumbo sizes), with great flavor and quality," Bland adds.
The August and September volumes are projected to be within the expected average yields and quality of typical Peruvian sweet onions, he says. "The weather predictions for these two months is very conservative and will continue to have a positive impact on the crop development," Bland says.
Stanger of Wada Farms says domestic onion production for the company also was running behind schedule due to the same weather that affected potatoes in Oregon, Washington and Western Idaho.
"There were some isolated fields with quality issues in Idaho, but the onion crop looks very good in general," he says.
Onion Retail Tips
Secondary displays can give onions the same boost they give potatoes.
"Our customers have started requesting our secondary display units for bagged or bulk onions," says Bland of Bland Farms. "Our secondary display units are great because they hold 40 pounds of onions, which means they are more compact than our large bin, allowing retailers to place them throughout the produce department and even in different sections of the store, like the meat department."
Bland Farms’ sister company, Vidalia Brands, offers snacks, dressings, sauces, relishes, salsas and more to accompany sweet onions. All Vidalia Brands products use Vidalia sweet onions as an ingredient, giving consumers more of the sweet Vidalia flavor.
"These items are sold into produce and are great for cross-promotions," Bland says. "Just like the onions, we have eye-catching merchandisers for the Vidalia Brands products. We can offer cross-promotions specific to each retailer for our Vidalia Brands products and sweet onions."