Texas onions and cilantro enjoy Super Bowl pull
The onions and cilantro shipped by Little Bear Produce, enjoy a sales uptick for Super Bowl parties. Jeff Brechler, a salesman for the vast grower-packer-importer-shipper headquartered in Edinburg, TX, tells FreshFruitPortal.com that these two items are popular with U.S. consumers for guacamole, salsa and appetizers. He adds that Cinco de Mayo is an even greater pull for the items.
On Jan. 23, Little Bear had three or four weeks left in its Peruvian onion import deal. Little Bear’s south Texas onions, as well as its Mexican onion growers, were all set back by Christmastime freezes. In Texas, Little Bear has acreage across the wide Rio Grande Valley. Diverse fields varied from little to extensive damage.
Cilantro is a fast-growing, 45-day crop, which quickly rebounds from weather setbacks. By Jan. 23, cilantro had returned to mid-season quality. Brechler says slower crops, such as beets and Swiss chard were set back for longer periods.
Most of Little Bear’s Texas onion volume should now begin about Mar. 15, but because of the freeze shocking onion plants, Brechler remains concerned about Texas onion production in March. “We’re not out of the woods yet.” Mexico onions normally start about Feb. 5 and they will also be delayed.
In the fourth week of January, Little Bear was shipping all of its leafy greens and cabbage. While cabbage enjoys strong demand for St. Patrick’s Day, Little Bear has found that customers feel they should be paying the same prices as were paid for the Irish holiday in the 1980s and 1990s. “It’s not that way anymore,” he adds. That has caused Little Bear to pull back on such plantings.
Late this January, Little Bear was “knee deep” in handling Mexican watermelons, which are the sweetest they had been in years, with brix levels of 11-12. In recent years, those levels were 9-10. “The quality is really, really good.”
Little Bear’s labor supplies are very tight again this year. A year ago, the firm tried to access local labor, but was forced to go the route of the Federal H-2A program. He expects that resource will again be tapped this winter.
“Other than that, we’ll keep our fingers crossed and our heads down. We’ll get our Texas melons in the ground soon and hopefully wind up 2022-23 on a good note. We can use a pat on the back instead of a kick in the shins.”
Little Bear usually ships Texas vegetables until mid-April. The watermelon harvest may run into May, depending on the presence of Texas heat.