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Onion Crop Down Almost 30 Percent
Tuesday, 28 July 2009

July 28-- Rain mixed with a lagging economy hurt the Vidalia onion crop this year.

Torrential downpours during the Spring and Summer months have severely harmed the crop harvested by farmers this season.

Executive Director of the Vidalia Onion Committee, Wendy Brannen, said a reported 20 to 21 inches of rain fell during the first harvest period in April, and then more rains came over a two week period during the second harvest.

"Well we've had a double whammy this year. Not only did we get rain in late April when we were trying to harvest, but then a few weeks later when we were trying to get our second harvest out of the field, we had almost two solid weeks of rain during that period as well. Our production figures are drastically down this year, I'd say they're off by almost 30% this year, which is significant," says Brannen.

The 30% decrease represents millions of pounds of onions which did not make it to market this year.

"We usually do right at 5 million, 40 pound units of Vidalia onions. This year, that could be down up to 1.5 million, 40 pound units. We are still selling our crop at the moment. We do have some crop that is left in controlled atmosphere storage, so that's not a final figure. But our production numbers could be down by as much as 1.5 million, 40 pound units, which is the standard unit that we use in the industry," explains Brannen.

Chairman of the Vidalia Onion Committee, Michael Hively, says individual farmers lost up to 40% of their crop due to rain damage.

"The rain affected our crop at the tail end, and a majority of growers lost anywhere from 25 to up to 40% of their production coming out of the fields the last 10 days of the harvest season due to the rain and not being able to get into the fields. What we didn't lose in the field, we lost some production on the back out of the storage crop, because of what damage the rain had on the onions. Rains did affect on overall production this year. But with that being said, you have good years and you have bad years. You can't control Mother Nature," says Hively.

Hively also says that the lagging economy has helped sales in the retail field, because more people are now eating at home.

"With the overall outlook as far as the market and the economy and things, our sales as an industry are at a higher price this year than previous years, mainly because of the volumes and availability of onions worldwide and also nationwide.  I think people are eating more at home now. Sales is up on the retail level because people are not going out and eating as often. They are spending a little extra money and buying a quality steak or a quality onion to replace that meal that they are eating out when they are cooking," explains Hively.

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