Treasure Valley onion businesses host Mexican trade group

ONTARIO – Eight local onion packing firms hosted a Mexican trade group recently as part of an effort to open up new export markets.

Seven Mexican onion buyers toured six onion packing sheds in Idaho and two in Oregon last month.

The Western United States Agriculture Trade Association in conjunction with the Oregon and Idaho state agriculture departments sponsored the visit.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture helped fund the delegation trip, said Eric Garman, trade development manager for the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

“It is a business meet-and-greet and also allows buyers and onion sellers to start a relationship. The ultimate goal is to sell more onions into Mexico,” said Garman.

The group from Mexico saw the local onion sheds in action as produce was delivered, processed and then packed.

Trade visits to the northwest are not unusual but they are rarely focused on just one crop, said Laura Johnson, bureau chief of the Idaho Department of Agriculture’s marketing division.

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“This was the first one in a number of years that was exclusively onions,” said Johnson.

The delegation visited Fiesta Farms Co-Op in Nyssa and Baker & Murakami Produce Co. in Ontario. In Idaho the group toured Partners Produce Inc., Owyhee Produce, Fort Boise Produce, Golden West Produce, J C Watson Co. and Sims Fruit Ranch.

The tour is important, said Grant Kitamura, general manager and part owner of Baker & Murakami Produce Co.

“It is good for potential customers to see what we are doing. They could see the crop and realize the size of the region and the volume of onions we ship and handle,” said Kitamura.

Eddie Rodriguez, sales director for Partner’s Produce in Payette, said the delegation visit could pay dividends in the future.

“They are not quite needing anything yet but, hopefully, in the near future we may get some orders,” said Rodriguez.

Mexico also exports onions into the U.S. but when out of season the nation needs to import as well, said Kitamura.

“Like any other business they need a certain amount of onions year-around. So, they do buy,” said Kitamura.

The timing for potential sales in Mexico is just right, said Garman.

“Our harvest, around October, November, happens to be around a time when they (Mexico) are sort of on a downward time of year of onion production so we have a window of opportunity,” said Garman.

Kitamura said he believed “several of the buyers were interested.”

Kitamura said trade delegation visits are “always a positive thing.”

“Whether it is Murakami or company XYZ, it is important so we can keep our position viable and provide markets for our producers and help the local economy,” said Kitamura.

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