Drought cuts further into Texas deal

03/03/2014 12:34:00 PM
Andy Nelson

The Texas onion deal continues to shrink as growers fight persistent drought.

The water situation for onion growers in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley has a chance of getting better this year — but it’s still just a chance, not a certainty, said Michael Davis, co-owner of Tex-Mex Sales LLC, Weslaco, Texas.

“There’s good snow pack in southern Colorado — whether it gets in our reservoirs is the question,” Davis said.

Tex-Mex’s focus on onions has helped it control acreage, a key to finding enough water to grow crops, Davis said.

“We’re onion people,” he said. “We don’t do cabbage, greens or anything else. We make sure we have enough water to grow our crop. How are you going to grow on one irrigation per acre?”

The Texas onion industry has decided to try to keep a lid on 2014 acreage totals, so as of mid-February, Don Ed Holmes, owner of The Onion House LLC, Weslaco, Texas, didn’t know how much Lone Star State growers were likely to produce this year.

But he’s fairly confident it will be lower — 10% for The Onion House and as much as 20% for the industry as a whole.

Water shortages are one of the main reasons for the industry’s decline, Holmes said.

Reservoirs are way below levels that would adequately supply the Rio Grande Valley’s onion and other crops. Cotton and corn growers have also taken a hard look at how much they can plant, Holmes said.

Sugar cane and citrus are the No. 1 and No. 2 priorities when it comes to water allocation, he said. Onions come in third.

“The water concerns are still a big deal,” he said.

Between the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Winter Garden Produce, Uvalde, Texas, cut 250 acres of onion production because of drought, said J Allen Carnes, the company’s owner.

This season, however, the company’s acreage is comparable to last season.

“We’re pretty similar to last year, which helps for planning purposes,” Carnes said.



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