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Agricultural Marketing Resource Center

Onions


Overview

  Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS.

In terms of both farm value and per person domestic consumption, the onion industry represented the 2nd  highest-valued vegetables produced in the United States, with a 2010 fresh market farm value of $1.155 billion. In 2010, the average American consumed 21.4 pounds of onions, up slightly from 1998 per capita consumption of 19.5 pounds per person. Historically, demand rapidly increased during the 1970s as the popularity of fast food hamburger chains featuring onions on burgers and onion rings as side orders increased. In the 1980s, the rising popularity of restaurant salad bars increased onion demand. By the end of the decade, demand continued to moderately increase as the growing popularity of pizza, pasta, salsa and other ethnic cuisines increased. The booming economy of the 1990s propelled demand for away-from-home foods, many of which feature onions. One-third of fresh market onions are consumed away from home, with full-service restaurants accounting for 15 percent of this target market.  April 2012 . . .  Onions

 



Marketing

  • California Garlic and Onion Research Committee. (2012). On January 1, 2005, The California Garlic and Onion Research Committee as a state marketing order under the supervision of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The driving force behind the establishment of the marketing order was a concern by growers, processors and handlers to manage the rapidly spreading threat to Allium production areas by the fungal pathogen white rot (Sclerotium cepivorum). Through mandatory assessments, it is our goal to fund $100,000 annually for basic and applied research as well as for demonstration projects.
  • Federal (USDA) Onion Marketing Orders, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), USDA. Link to information on the four federal marketing orders, including: Marketing Order 958: Idaho and Oregon Onions; Marketing Order 959: South Texas Onions; Marketing Order 955: Georgia Vidalia Onions; and Marketing Order 956: Walla Walla Onions. Contained within each of the pages listed is committee, rulemaking and other information related to the specific federal marketing order for each state/region.
  • Fruit and Vegetable Market News Portal, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), USDA. Custom data queries concerning weekly prices at terminal, shipping, movement and retail points for fresh organic and non-organic fruits and vegetables, sourced by product variety and regional locations can be conducted using this excellent database.
  • Georgia Vidalia Industry 2002, Vidalia Onion Grower Revenue Losses in 2002; Policy Briefing Paper NFAPP #02-02, National Food and Agricultural Policy Center - This paper analyzes the likely path of Vidalia onion shipments during the 2002 shipping season, assesses how the change in volume affects onion prices and grower revenue and then evaluates how projected grower revenue compares to previous years in order to estimate likely changes to 2002 cash receipts.
  • Global Agricultural Trade System, Foreign Agricultural Service, USDA. Welcome to GATS, the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service's Global Agricultural Trade System. GATS includes international agricultural, fish, forest and textile products trade statistics dating from the inception of the Harmonized coding system in 1989 to present.
  • Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Industry Analysis. Agricultural Economics Research Series No. 08-08, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho. Bolotove, Y, and B. Jemmet. (2008, December). The paper presents an analysis of alternative market scenarios for Idaho-Eastern Oregon onion industry. Idaho-Eastern Oregon onion industry is one of the largest producers of summer storage onions in the country with approximately 23% market share in the national value of production. The estimation results are used to predict the onion industry price level and value of production under alternative market scenarios differing due to the level of onion supply.
  • Market News Reports, USDA, FOB shipping information - The USDA's News Service reports on changes in produce markets. This link is specifically for potato and onion information.
  • National Onion Association - A membership organization that specializes in promotion, education and other services pertaining to the growing and marketing of onions. Founded in 1913, the National Onion Association (NOA) is the official organization representing growers, shippers, brokers, and commercial representatives of the U.S. onion industry. The NOA is comprised of over 500 members from the United States and abroad.
  • Oklahoma Candy Onion Production: Projected Net Income, Price Risk and Yield Risk. Wathen, B. R. Holcomb, M. Taylor, J. Shrefler, J.R.C. Robinson. (2004, October) Food Technology Research Report P-1005, Food and Agricultural Products Research and Technology Center, Oklahoma State University. This potential large-scale niche onion production operation was evaluated as an alternative to cattle, forage and grain production.
  • Onion Marketing Orders, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), USDA.
  • Onion Produce Facts, Postharvest Technology Research Information Center, University of California, Davis, updated 2006.
  • Onion Production, Agricultural Alternatives, Penn State, 2000 - Marketing section of this site discusses the four basic marketing alternatives that are available to the onion grower: wholesale markets, cooperatives, local retailers and roadside stands.
  • Onion World magazine - Voice of the onion industry.
  • Onions and Potato Market, Texas and National. (2012). Texas Department of Agriculture maintains a list of all current market reports issued by USDA-AMS on this site.
  • Onions, Dry: Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality. Suslow, T. (1996). Postharvest Technology Research Information Center, University of California, Davis, California. Updated in 2006.
  • Produce Marketing Association (PMA): Storage Onions - This site has a searchable database with information on storage onions and fresh onions, and has news items on issues related to supply, demand, marketing, nutrition and food safety. Founded in 1949, the PMA is a not-for-profit global trade association serving more than 2,400 members who market fresh fruits, vegetables and related products and services worldwide. Its members are involved in the production, distribution, retail and foodservice sectors of the industry.
  • United Fresh Produce Association - Industry advocacy group that has information on government legislation and related business information. United is the national trade organization that represents the interests of growers, shippers, processors, brokers, wholesalers and distributors of produce, working together with their customers at retail and foodservice, suppliers at every step in the distribution chain and international partners.
  • Vegetables and Melons, Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA. 2012. ERS provides economic analyses and data on changing conditions in the U.S. vegetables and melons sector. Topics include production, consumption, international trade, prices received, and more.
  • Vegetables and Melons Outlook Yearbook, ERS, USDA, 2011. The every-other-month Vegetables and Melons Outlook, which is presented in a newsletter format, provides current intelligence and forecasts the effects of changing conditions in the U.S. vegetable and melon sector (including potatoes, pulses, and mushrooms). Topics include production, consumption, shipments, prices received, trade, and more.
  • Vegetables Annual Summary, National Ag Statistics Service, USDA, 2012. This file contains data on fresh market vegetables, including seasonal acreage for harvest, planted acres, yield, production, intentions to plant processing vegetables; marketing year average price, value and utilization.
  • Walla Walla Sweet Onion Organization - The Walla Walla Sweet Onion United States Department of Agriculture Marketing Order (No. 956) was adopted in May of 1995. The order designates Walla Walla Sweet Onions as a unique variety, and establishes a federally protected growing area (the Walla Walla Valley of Southeast Washington and Northeast Oregon). Sweet onions grown outside this production area cannot be marketed as Walla Walla Sweet Onions or face stiff federal penalties.  The order seeks to strengthen consumer demand through promotions, marketing, and research and development. These activities are financed by assessments levied on Walla Walla Sweet Onion shippers. The program is financed by assessments levied on handlers of fresh market shipments.
  • Why Can’t Vidalia Onions Be Grown in Iowa? Developing a Branded Agricultural Product, Clemens, R. (2002, September). Midwest Agribusiness Trade Research and Information Center (MATRIC) Briefing Paper 02-MBP3, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. Vidalia onions are an example of how responding to consumer demand with a succession of marketing, legislative and research events has protected a niche market from becoming oversupplied by producers. And, by protecting the name, quality and image of an agricultural product through state ownership of the trademark, higher values are realized throughout the marketing chain.

Processing/Manufacturing

  • Gills Onions - Example of an integrated producer, processor and marketer. This company markets fresh onions, bulk-processed onions, purees, food service and specialty products.
  •  “Long-Term Onion Storage: 2008 Report.” Malheur Experiment Station, Oregon State University, Ontario, Oregon. Thornton, M., D. Beck, B. Simerly, C. Shock. (2008). The Treasure Valley region of western Idaho and eastern Oregon supplies approximately 40 percent of the winter storage onions in the United States. Processing accounts for a significant portion of crop usage. Extending the current storage season beyond May would increase the amount of local onions that could be grown for processing. However, there is currently no information available on onion cultivars that have resistance to common onion decay pathogens during long-term storage, and thus potential for extended storage life. This study was designed to evaluate several new onion cultivars and breeding lines under cold storage conditions to see if they could be kept until mid-July. The Malheur Experiment Station produces several Annual Reports: Onion Topics, covering a wide variety of topics from 1995 through 2010.

 Production

  • Allium Net (2012). Website developed and maintained by Dr. Howard Schwartz, Professor and Extension Specialist, Plant Pathology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado. Dr. Schwartz is a leading onion expert, and Allium Net has links to national allium research conferences, working groups, and ongoing grant-funded projects and resulting findings and outputs.
  • Chapter 21: Onions – 2012 Integrated Crop and Pest Management Guidelines for Commercial Vegetable Production. Cornell Cooperative Extension Publications, Cornell University, Cornell, New York. Site includes links for IPM Onion Scouting Form, New York Onion Crop Profile, New York IPM Elements for Onions, Resource Guide for Organic Insect and Disease Management, and Recommended Varieties.
  • Dehydrator Bulb Onion Production in California, Voss, R. E. and K.S. Mayberry. (1999). Vegetable Research and Information Center, Vegetable Production Series, Publication 7239, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California, Davis, California - Available in Spanish. Information on dehydrator bulb onion production areas and seasons, varieties, pest management, harvesting and marketing.
  • Dry-bulb Onions, Vegetables and Melons Outlook, ERS, USDA, 2003.
  • Fresh-market Bulb Onion Production in California. Voss, R. E. and K.S. Mayberry. (2011).  Vegetable Research and Information Center, Vegetable Production Series, Publication 7242, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California, Davis, California - Available in Spanish. Information on fresh-market bulb onion production areas and seasons, varieties, pest management, harvesting and marketing.
  • Fresh Onion Production Information, University of California Vegetable Research Information Center - Production and marketing fact sheets on dehydrator bulb and fresh onion varieties. Includes post-harvest procedures and production cost models.
  • Fruit & Vegetable Market News, AMS, USDA - Terminal and wholesale markets are listed at this site.
  • Green Onion Production in California
  • Onion and Garlic, Integrated Pest Management guidelines, University of California, Davis. The UC Statewide IPM Program provides practical information on pest management techniques and identification for a broad range of California pests. Management suggestions apply to California, but they may be useful in other areas also.
  • Onion Market Reports, Texas Department of Agriculture - National markets and state production information for onions.
  • Onion Production, Agricultural Alternatives, Pennsylvania State University, 2000 - Marketing section of this site discusses the four basic marketing alternatives that are available to the onion grower: wholesale markets, cooperatives, local retailers and roadside stands. Publication also includes a sample onion budget including a summary of estimated costs and returns per acres and net returns for five different yields and prices.
  • Onions, Vegetable Crop Budgets, Southwest Florida Research & Education Center.
  • Onions, VegNet, Colorado State University.
  • Sample Costs to Produce Onions, University of California Cooperative Extension, 2011. Wilson, R., W. Riggs. K.M. Klonsky, P. Livingston, and R.L. DeMoura. (2011).  The sample costs to produce onions for dehydration in the Tulelake Basin of the Intermountain Region are presented in this study. The study is intended as a guide only, and can be used in making production decisions, determining potential returns, preparing budgets and evaluating production loans. The practices described are based on production procedures considered typical for this crop and area but will not apply to every situation.
  • Vidalia Onion Grower Revenue Losses in 2002 National Food and Agricultural Policy Project (NFAPP) Policy Briefing Paper, NFAPP #02-02, National Food and Agricultural Policy Center, Mesa, AZ.  This paper analyzes the likely path of Vidalia onion shipments during the 2002 shipping season, assesses how the change in volume affects onion prices and grower revenue and then evaluates how projected grower revenue compares to previous years in order to estimate likely changes to 2002 cash receipts.
  • Welcome to  the VegNet for Onions, Colorado State University – Integrated Pest Management Program. Includes onion fact sheets, pesticide strategies, and other onion information. Also offers YouTube videos which demonstrate Iris Yellow Spot Virus, Onion Xanthomonas Bacterial Disease, Purple Blotch, Botrytis, and many more.
     

Businesses/Case Studies

  • Basin Gold Cooperative - A group of companies in Eastern Washington and Oregon that specializes in the sale and marketing of fresh potatoes and onions. This marketing cooperative was formed to provide their customers with a quality source of produce on a year-round basis as well as improve customer service. Of the member companies, nearly all are involved in the growing, packing and shipping of fresh market onions and potatoes on a national scale. The members alternate and stagger their packing and shipping times throughout the winter and following spring to fill customer orders, as well as maintain enough product in storage to maintain shipments until the next summer harvest.
  • Bridge International Marketing - Example of a large-scale distributor offering several different frozen and semi-processed onion products.
  • Demand Grows for Rare Onions - Alligator River Growers is a husband and wife mail-order business that specializes in direct marketing specialty onions produced on 100-acre fields that yield 40,000 pounds of sweet onions labeled and sold as “Mattamuskeet Sweet Onions." See their Webpage at http://www.alligatorrivergrowers.com/.
  • Oklahoma Candy Onion Production: Projected Net Income, Price Risk and Yield Risk, Oklahoma State University, 2004 - This potential large-scale niche onion production operation was evaluated as an alternative to cattle, forage and grain production.
  • Partners Produce, Inc. The largest producer of whole peeled onions in the Idaho-Eastern Oregon growing area, this two-generation family business was established in 1998. From farming, to fresh packing operations, to processing, Partner's Produce Inc. is a full service onion grower, packer, and processing company.
  • Testa Produce - Example of a broad-line distributor that produces value-added products (special-cut, frozen, canned and specialty products). They market many specialty varieties of onions.
  • Zappala Family Builds on Growing Taste for Mild, Sweet Onions - Zappala Farms is one of the larger onion producers in New York state. The farm specializes in the sweet variety, with an annual onion production volume of 250,000 40-pound boxes of sweet onions that are marketed under the “Empire Sweet” brand. Zappala Farms just opened up a processing plant called Empire Fresh-Cuts that will produce and market a line of fresh-processed sweet onion products.



Links checked April 2012.

 

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