Onions

onionsRevised October, 2018.

Introduction

Onions are the fourth most consumed fresh vegetable in the U.S, behind potatoes, tomatoes and sweet corn. In 2017, the annual per capita utilization of onions (fresh and dehydrated) was 21.9 pounds per person. Fresh uses account for most consumption. The onion industry represented the fifth most-valuable vegetable produced in the United States.

Onions provide many attractive qualities to consumers, particularly in today’s health-conscious market. Research has shown that onions are low in calories and are a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C. 

Marketing

Onions can be divided into three marketable categories: spring ("green"), summer fresh market onions and fall/winter storage ("dry bulb") onions. Fresh market, or green, onions are pulled while the tops are still green and usually before a large bulb has formed.  Fresh market onions can be identified by thin, light-colored skin and may have edible green tops.

An important niche market and value-added success story is centered on the Georgia Vidalia Onion industry. Vidalia® onions are the pioneer of sweet onions and are grown only in the mild climate and unique soil surrounding Vidalia, Georgia. This fresh-market onion is available nationwide on supermarket shelves and commands a premium price.

While the fresh market and storage onion markets account for the largest share of onion use, other markets also account for significant production. Most onions used in canning and freezing are sourced from fresh market varieties, while dehydrated products use separate varieties having higher solids content.
 

According to the USDA Economic Research Service, approximately 19.7 percent of the fresh marketed onions utilized in 2016 in the U.S. was imported

Production

Onions are grown commercially in more than 20 states, literally border-to-border and coast-to-coast. Onion bulbing is highly dependent on day length. Varieties are typically categorized as long-day (spring planted in northern regions), short-day (planted in the fall in the south and west), or intermediate-day. Approximately 138,000 acres of onions (spring, summer, and storage) were harvested in 2017, with average yields of 503 cwt per acre. Approximately, 71.9 million pounds of harvested onions were utilized in the U.S. in 2017 with an estimated value of $971.2 million.

According to the National Onion Association, the top four onion producing areas or states are Washington, Idaho-Eastern Oregon, California, and Georgia

Financials:

Based on most recent production and price averages, the estimated gross value per acre is $7,530. The cost of onion production varies depending the production location and type of onions. It is relatively higher than most vegetables due to crop requirements for water, pest management protection and manual labor (in the case of fresh market onions), 

National Retail Report: Fruits and Vegetables: Weekly Advertised Prices for Fruits and Vegetables at Major Retail Supermarket Outlets http://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/fvwretail.pdf

Sources:

Onion Production in California

The Most Consumed Vegetables in the US

USDA Economic Research Service (ERS): Vegetable and Pulses Data, 2018  

Vegetables Annual Summary, National Ag Statistics Service, USDA, 2018

National Onion Association

National Potato and Onion Report, USDA, 2018