Rains take toll on Texas onions

06/04/2007 02:00:00 AM

By Pamela Riemenschneider
The Packer

What a difference a week makes.

When camera crews from NBC's Nightly News on May 22 visited the Uvalde, Texas, onion fields of Winter Garden Produce for a segment about immigration reform that aired May 24, president J Allen Carnes told the news show onions likely would be left in the field because growers couldn't get enough labor to pick them.

One week later, on May 29, Carnes says it was a completely different story.

Heavy rains and thunderstorms had soaked his fields, a bad turn in an already disastrous season, Carnes says.

"Between the time of that piece and now, we've had a bunch of rain," he says. "We're in a worse position than we already were."

Carnes says his company had to skip fields because there weren't enough pickers, and now he won't be able to get in to the field because of rain.

Frank Eddy, owner of McBryde Produce LLC in Uvalde, says this year's growing season has been hard.

"We were down 50 percent on acres planted to start with, and now we're going to lose probably 50 percent to the rain," Eddy says. "We've had hard growing weather since January, with ice storms, wind, hail and now the rain."

According to the National Weather Service, Uvalde has had more than 5 inches of rain this May, which is 2 inches ahead of its average rainfall amount.

The market also hasn't been as high as it was earlier this spring, shippers say.

By the time the Winter Garden area southwest of San Antonio started shipping onions, around May 1, the $30 markets were long gone.

"Last week we were selling jumbos at $5," Eddy says. "It's at about $8 today."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported 50-pound sacks of yellow grano onions shipping out of the Winter Garden district of Texas selling for $12 for super colossals, $10 for colossals and $8 for jumbos on May 30.

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