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Keystone Fruit Marketing eyes good ‘Mayan Sweets’ crop

Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc., headquartered in Greencastle, PA, is excited about the prospects for its 2011 trademarked “Mayan Sweets” Peruvian onions. “[Things are] excellent so far,” said Marty Kamer, vice president of sales, on Aug. 11. “However, we have just begun the harvest. Anything can happen at this time.”

The company began its “Mayan Sweets” onion program in 1992. Keyperu S.A. is the Peruvian-based sister company, staffed by local experts. Growers have exclusive agreements with Keyperu to facilitate standardized growing practices and product consistency.

Acreage devoted to sweet onion production is similar to 2010. “Weather conditions to date have been favorable,” Mr. Kamer said. “If anything, it’s been slightly warmer than normal.”

The harvest began in early August, and onions have sized well. “Initial reports are very good with most of the onions being jumbo and colossal,” Mr. Kamer commented. Onions are certified for sweetness by National Onion Labs.

Following a two-week transit time by container, onions are received at multiple ports in the United States. Mr. Kamer said that it is hard to anticipate the number of containers Keystone will ship this season. “It depends on the crop,” he explained. “We have lots of Mother Nature to deal with between now and the end of December, which is when we harvest the last onions.”

Keystone markets its “Mayan Sweets” to customers in the retail and foodservice sectors throughout the United States from September through February. A variety of promotions, including billboards, busboards and radio, help drive sales. Keystone also employs the services of Chef Dave Munson, who conducts in-store cooking demonstrations for recipes that feature onions as a key ingredient.