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Pricing expected to be strong as NW onion growers begin new season

On March 31, Northwest Farm Credit Services looked at onion production during the 2013-14 crop year and provided some insights about upcoming production and pricing for 2014-15 in its Onion Market Snapshot. "Northwest onion markets are closing the 2013-14 marketing year strong, with prices bolstered by tight supplies," the agency stated. "However, growers' profits are mixed, depending on yields, quality, contracts and market timing."

NFCS noted that factors driving onion pricing included lower domestic supplies, fewer Mexican imports and good demand and prices. "In the Columbia Basin of Washington and Oregon, average onion yields and strong prices bolstered onion producers' financial position," the report went on to say.waCropOverviewNorthwest Farm Credit Services reported that pricing at the closing of the 2013-14 onion season were strong, bolstered by tight supplies. The organization anticipates onion growers in the Pacific Northwest will see stable to strong pricing as they move into the 2014-15 season. (Photo courtesy of Doug Wilson/U.S. Department of Agriculture) Quality and yield constraints, the organization indicated, "underpinned profitable early-season onion prices and fueled strong late-season onion markets." Pricing for yellow and white onions was up in the Colombia Basin, while pricing for reds was down.

Northwest Farm Credit Services discussed expectations for the 2014-15 season. "Near average to slightly lower onion acreages in the Northwest are expected to support stable to strong onion prices entering the 2014-15 onion marketing season," the agency wrote. "Projections for market strength are further supported by California onion production, where fewer late season onion acres are expected to reduce competition for new crop Northwest onions."

Information released by agricultural experts shows that onion production is big business in the Pacific Northwest.

Oregon was the nation's second-largest producer of storage onions in 2012. According to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, which released its publication Oregon Agriculture: Facts and Figures in July 2013, the Beaver State produced 24 percent of national supplies. Storage onions ranked 10th on the state's Top 40 Commodities list for 2012 at a value of approximately $115.8 million.

Onions produced in Malheur County are part of the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion growing region and represent significant volume for the state. The 2013 Agripedia, published by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, provided a snapshot of Oregon onion production during 2012. According to the report, a total of 10,600 acres of onions were harvested in Malheur County. Looking at the category "Other Oregon," ODA reported that 8,700 acres were harvested for the fresh market. Approximately 5,133 thousand hundredweight were produced with the value of production set at $43.7 million.

Last October, the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the Department of Agriculture's Regional Field Office in Olympia, WA noted that several commodities, including onions, reached commodity highs for 2012 production. "Record high values of production were set for six of the top 20 Washington commodities," NASS stated, adding that onions "increased 51 percent from the previous year."

"There is no question that all of this shows just how important agriculture is to our state's economy, said Bud Hover, director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

Data published in the 2013 Washington State Agricultural Bulletin provided some additional insights. According to the publication, Washington ranked 11th nationally for all onion production in 2012. The value of onion production was approximately $184 million.

Washington ranked second nationally for summer onion production, providing the nation with 23.1 percent of its supplies. In 2012, Washington producers harvested 3,100 acres of summer non-storage onions with production set at 1,147 thousand hundredweight. The value of production was $36.4 million, and the value per harvested acre was $11,766.

During the same crop year, producers harvested 23,500 acres of summer storage onions with production set at 13,865 thousand hundredweight. The value of production was $147.6 million, and the value per harvested acre was $6,282.