Sometimes the produce game is about calculated risk. John Shuman, president of Shuman Produce Inc. in Reidsville, GA, took one of those leaps of faith when he decided to increase his Peruvian acreage earlier this year in advance of the season. The result has been a powerful performance in light of reduced Peruvian yields that has put the Georgia sweet onion provider in a very sweet position indeed.
Though Mr. Shuman is not laying claim to the title of Peruvian onion king, early results from the season suggestthat Shuman Produce has taken the category lead and is positioned for even bigger and better.
Ever humble, the most Mr. Shuman will say about the Peruvian conquest is that “It’s definitely something we’ve been keeping a close eye on and the timing was right for us to increase our presence there. We did see an opportunity coming and it’s worked out for us. Peruvian yields are down because of the hot summer and some growing issues but we actually prepared ourselves last winter and spring when it was time to plant and so we greatly increased our production to take advantage of those opportunities we had and it’s working very well for us. Our imports are up a good amount even though the Peruvian industry is down a little bit.”
With Peruvian yields down overall, Shuman is in the catbird seat with ample supplies of medium and jumbo Peruvian onions that will last well into January.
“Retailers can certainly go through the holidays and into the new year looking to promote bagged Peruvian onions with some very attractive offers,” Mr. Shuman said. “The overall market seems like it’s growing; it’s been a good season so far for Shuman Produce and we’re blessed to have the opportunity to do some business down there. The quality’s been very nice, the onions look very nice this season and we’ve had a good season so far and are looking forward to continuing that throughout Christmas and certainly into the New Year.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Shuman sees the onion market firming up, something that was confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Nov. 28.
“The storage market out of the West and Northwest came up well short of what everybody thought, so the yellow onion market is beginning to firm up; a natural reaction to that is the sweet onion market will come up with it,” said Mr. Shuman, whose company trades in sweet onions and nothing else 12 months a year. “Particularly as inventory out of Peru starts to wind down into the new year and with Mexico not likely to see volume before mid- to late-January and maybe not even then, I think we will continue to see the market continue to inch up very gently.”
Shuman will roll out of its Peruvian crop into Mexican sweet onions in late January and early February then switch over to its Chilean product before the Texas deal comes on in mid-March, just weeks ahead of Shuman’s showcase Vidalia onion deal.