September 30, 2021

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Executive Summary

Drivers in the industry include increasing input prices, dry and windy weather conditions. 

  • Rising input prices are increasing the cost of production.
  • Extreme heat weighed on onion yield and size profile. 

Onions 12 month Profitability Outlook

Northwest FCS’ 12-month profitability outlook suggests slightly profitable onion returns. Producers with high-quality, large onions will have favorable returns. Producers with smaller onions will face headwinds.

Northwest Situation

Onion crops faced significant heat stress through the summer. This stress reduced the average size of onions and reduced yields. Prices for large onions are substantially higher year over year. Profitability of medium onions is poor.

Input costs are rising. Inflation has driven up prices for fertilizer and fuel and is pressuring margins. Due to shipping and labor shortages, getting the crop harvested and into the market is more expensive. Plastics shortages may limit availability for drip irrigation supplies in the 2022 season.

In the Idaho/Oregon Treasure Valley, yields were as much as 30% lower. Idaho’s early season weather conditions were dry and windy. Weak, thin stands contributed to the wind clipping off the onions. These thin stands were also subject to greater weed pressure. Several acres of onions did not get enough moisture soon enough after planting, these ended up drying out. This contributed to lower yields and total production.

Columbia Basin producers who receive their water supply from the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project had to wait for water, so they could not pre-irrigate the ground, which caused an unevenness to the onion stands. Because of the uneven stands the size profile of the onion was more variable. Producers growing onions under sprinkler irrigation will face headwinds to crop quality. Higher temperatures necessitated increased irrigation and opportunity for bacterial intrusion. 

Washington, Oregon and Idaho Onion Prices 
Onions graphic

Source: National Potato and Onion Report, USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Agricultural Marketing Service.

National Onion Situation

Shipments from Idaho and Oregon are down 37% season to date. Likewise, onion shipments from the Columbia basin are down 7%. Shipments from the San Joaquin Valley are down 12%. Georgia and New Mexico are the only two production regions with increased shipments season to date, up 41% and 5% respectively. However, prices suggest the shortages in the northwest outweigh both increasing shipments from Georgia and New Mexico and imports from Mexico, Peru and Canada.

Additional Information

Northwest FCS Business Management Center

USDA National Potato and Onion Report

The Produce News

The National Onion Association

Federal Reserve Economic Data

Learn More

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