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First Peruvian onion volume for Bland Farms ready for distribution

The first load of Peruvian onions imported by Bland Farms LLC arrived at the Port of Savannah, GA, the week of Aug. 8. Richard Pazderski, director of sales and marketing, said that movement to the marketplace was scheduled to begin within days of arrival.

The company, headquartered in Reidsville, GA, is the nation’s largest shipper of Vidalia sweet onions. In addition to production regions in Georgia, Texas, New York, Idaho and Utah, Bland Farms has cemented business relationships with onion producers in Peru, Mexico and Ecuador.

Peruvian onions are grown in desert areas or near-desert areas that are located 12.5 miles from the Pacific Ocean and irrigated with water from the Andes. All sheds with which Bland Farms conducts business are Primus or third-party audited. Organic operations are also certified.

Weather in Peru has been a factor during the current production season. “The weather has been a little more variable this year than normal,” Mr. Pazderski told The Produce News on Aug. 10. “You want warm days and cold nights. We have had less cold nights than normal.” Cool evening temperatures promote growth during the bulbing stage, he explained.

Mr. Pazderski said that he expects this season’s per-hectare production to be down minimally due to weather. Input from business contacts also indicated that onion quality should be good in 2011. When asked about product sizing, he said that 20 percent of the crop will be colossal, 50 percent will be jumbos and the balance will size to mediums.

According to Mr. Pazderski, this year’s crop is actually coming in slightly ahead of typical timetables. Onions dry in the field for approximately one week prior to loading.

As onion production ramps up, product will also be received at the ports of Philadelphia and Long Beach, CA. “We will go through February on our Peruvian imports,” he noted. Transit time on cargo containers is roughly two weeks.

When received, 95 percent of its volume will be sold to retail under the “Bland Farms” label. Peruvian onions are fresh packed to order in the United States and sold in a full line of high-graphics cartons and consumer bags. Bland Farms continues with GTIN labeling.

“During the August to February timeframe, the Peruvian onion is arguably the best sweet onion out there,” he stated. It is the closest in physical characteristics and flavor profile to the famous Vidalia onion.

Bland Farms will partner with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation again to promote breast cancer awareness in October. The partnership represents a commitment to Bland Farms’ customer base, which is largely comprised of women. A line of packaging introduced last year will be available to retailers again. A variety of POS materials, including recipes that incorporate onions and promote good breast health, will be available in produce departments.