Featured Produce News

Onion Industry at a Glance

April 03, 2014

Onion Harvest Techniques, Statistics and Reports

A quick look at onion harvesting and packing:

 

 

 

 

2013 Crop Year, Onions

Value

$ 969 million

 

Production

6.97 billion lbs

(3,159,000 MT)

Domestic Consumption

7.23 billion lbs

(3,279,000 MT)

Exports

699 million lbs

(317,000 MT)

Imports

963 million lbs

(437,000 MT)

Bearing Acres

143,340

 

Data Source: NASS 2013 Vegetable Summary and FAS, USDA

 

U.S. Fresh Apple Trade

Click on Onion Industry Graph to Enlarge.
Prepared by FPP using data from FAS and NASS, USDA

 

The onion industry represented the 3rd highest-valued vegetable produced in the United States in 2013. Onions are generally divided into two marketable categories: spring/summer fresh market ("green") onions and fall/winter storage ("dry bulb") onions.

Production in the U.S.

In 2013, 6.97 billion pounds of onions were harvested.  Storage onions are the most common in the U.S.; 5.08 billion pounds were produced in 2013.  California produces the most onions followed by Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Texas.  These states accounted for approximately 80 percent of the onion production in the U.S. 

 

 

2012/13 Major Players in Apple Market

Click on U.S. Production Graph to Enlarge.
Prepared by FPP using data from NASS, USDA

 

Harvest Techniques

Typically, onions are dried before being harvested in order to prevent infection from fungus.  A rotating blade is used to cut the onion from its roots and then leave the onion on the surface allowing it to dry in the sun.  Afterwards, the dried onions are collected (usually mechanically), graded, and bagged for shipment.  Before shipment, onions are cured to allow the neck opening to close.

Fresh Market Onions

Fresh market onions are harvested while the tops are still green and usually before a large bulb has formed. There are several fresh market onion varieties (yellow, red and white) throughout the growing period of March through August. Fresh market onions typically have thin, light-colored skin and often times have edible green tops. The higher water content found in fresh market onions gives them a sweeter, milder flavor than storage onions.  Fresh market onion, however, are more susceptible to bruising.  In order to minimize damage, fresh market onions are harvested and processed manually.

Storage Onions

Storage onions are also available in a number of different varieties.  The most common of which are yellow, white (Bermuda type) and red. The yellow variety is the most common variety found in local grocery stores and has a crisp paper skin.  The yellow variety can be found in grocery stores as early as August and as late as spring of the following year.  The white and red varieties are also common but have a higher cost of production and storing than the yellow variety, which decreases their availability in supermarkets. 

Average Price Received for Fresh Market Onions

 

Click on Average Price Graph to Enlarge.
Prepared by FPP using data from NASS, USDA

 

Among spring fresh market onions, Georgia dominates the industry in prices received due to its popular Vidalia Onions. Vidalia Onions are known for their sweet taste and are exclusively grown in 13 counties in West Central Georgia. The Walla Walla Onion of Washington is to summer fresh market onions as the Vidalia onion is to spring, although on a less dramatic scale. Walla Walla onions averaged prices of $27.40/CWT during their growing season in 2013, while U.S. averages ran around $17.10 for other summer fresh market onions during the same period.

Legal Battles Involving Onions

Georgia Vidalia onion growers are in a legal battle with the state over when and how much of their product they can ship.  Current state law establishes dates by which onion growers are allowed to ship their products.  Several Georgia onion growers claim that these mandatory dates often force farmers to sacrifice quality to make the deadline, which hurts their competitiveness in certain markets.  Georgia growers argue that farmers are the most capable in deciding when to ship their product.  Reuters reported that the court recently sided with the growers, but the state is appealing the decision. 

Onion Marketing Orders

           Idaho and Eastern Oregon
           South Texas
           Vidalia, Georgia
           Walla Walla, Washington

 

Reports

To view the 2013 Vegetable Summary [Onions] from NASS, click here.

 

 

The Federal Register

Crop Profiles, Harvesting and Trade

Agency and Congressional Hearings

Congressional Legislation

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