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Ontario Produce: Onion size should even out as season progresses

Cool weather earlier in the year is expected to affect onion sizing during the first half of the current season for Ontario Produce.

On Sept. 8, Sales Manager Bob Komoto provided some insights about the coming season. “The weather in the spring was wet and prevented a normal planting time,” he stated. “After the crop was planted, it remained cool in April and May. Temperatures remained below normal until July. If we get a good, warm and dry fall, the rest of the harvest could be closer to normal.”

The company is located in Ontario, OR, and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Rio Queen Inc. in Mission, TX.

Ontario Produce works with a network of 28 regional onion growers whose acreages are spread out in the growing region. Mr. Komoto said that an additional 300 acres were planted to onions this season when compared to 2010.

Growers produce the Vaquero, Granero, Ranchero, Montero, Barbaro, Cometa, Red Wing, Red Bull and Salsa varieties. “There are always a few varieties planted that are still in the testing phase of their life. But this is never very big,” he stated.

Mr. Komoto was asked about quality and product sizing this season. “Quality is still unpredictable,” he replied. “With the crop coming in later, proper curing of the onions is always a concern. At this time, there seem to be fewer super colossals in the fields.”

Despite the situation, Ontario Produce expects to have a packout similar to 2010. The harvest began on Sept. 6, and Mr. Komoto said that he hopes that it will be wrapped up by mid-October.

“We put in a new canopy for the early-season temporary storage of onions,” he commented. “And as always, we have made modifications to our equipment to improve quality and capacity.”

Onions are packed under the “E&S,” “Golden Bird” and “Real West” labels, as well as the “A” brand. Ontario Produce does private label for its customers upon request. “Again this year, we will participate in the Idaho-Eastern Oregon promotion and pack the ‘Spanish Sweet’ label,” Mr. Komoto added.

Fifty percent of product is sold to foodservice, 30 percent to retail and the balance to wholesalers. “We offer 50-pound and 25-pound sacks, as well as consumer bags of two, three, five and 10 pounds,” Mr. Komoto stated. “We also offer 50-pound, 40-pound and 25-pound cartons. We can put up bins of bulk onions or onions in consumer packs. In addition, we can sticker onions with PLU labels for onions in cartons or sacks.”

Ontario Produce has participated in third-party audits for food safety for over 13 years. “We are testing all of our onions with Certified Onions Inc. for residuals of chemicals and also for E. coli and salmonella,” Mr. Komoto stated. “We are doing a third-party global food-safety audit [in addition to] audits conducted by our foodservice customers.”