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Growers Warn There Could Be An Onion Shortage This Summer

Hedwig Storch
CC BY-SA 3.0

Is the country careening towards summertime with a shortage of onions?

The National Onion Association certainly seems to think so. The Greeley, Colorado-based trade group is warning consumers the nation’s supply is about 30 percent lower than it was this time last year. The association’s vice president, Greg Yielding, said storms in the southern U.S. and Mexico drowned out crops while in the Netherlands, a top onion producer, dry conditions resulted in a smaller than usual harvest.

What exactly does this means for consumers? Yielding said he can’t be sure, but it all boils down to a basic economic concept of supply and demand

“The repercussion is you could pay more for them for awhile. We’ll see how it plays out,” he said.

Idaho and Oregon produce the most onions in the U.S.; Colorado comes in at number 10. But the majority of these layered veggies are imported into the country. Roughly 16 to 20 million bags of onions, at 50 pounds each, come to the U.S. annually, mostly from Canada and Mexico.

Credit USDA
Last four years of onion imports from leading countries Canada and Mexico. The USDA does not have trade data after January 2019.

According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, imports of onions appear stable. While U.S. production levels have dropped slightly, it’s all within a historic range.

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