While other Texas growers were cutting back on their acreage after two tough seasons, Rio Queen in Mission, TX, took a calculated risk and actually increased production. It was a gamble, but perfect weather and proper planning meant an early start to the season and the company will increase yields by 50 percent over 2012.
“We started shipping sweet Texas onions Feb. 16 so we are extremely early,” said Rio Queen President Mike Martin. “We did that by design. We stepped out and took some chances and made an effort to be early and Mother Nature cooperated.”
Part of Rio Queen’s increased acreage was planted to come off early; the weather spurred some of the rest to pick up the pace as well.
“We had a very warm and dry January and February, so not only were our early onions on target, our more traditional plantings are also early,” Mr. Martin said. “We normally shoot to start March 7-9 but our early fields that were intended for that period we’re clipping today, March 1, and they’re ready to pack — we can almost run them right out of the fields, they’re just absolutely beautiful. So we had a big head start on everyone and we are just tickled with how things look at this point.”
So why plant more when other Texas growers are cutting back?
“We took a chance. Our acreage is up tremendously, huge — we have way more in the ground than before. I think we’re going to be up at least 50 percent in volume but we may be up more like two-thirds and the crop just looks phenomenal,” Mr. Martin said. “We planted our early Texas onions thinking our Mexican supplies would be down and they are. We felt like the crop in the Northwest was a little off — not bad don’t get me wrong — but if you look at the reports the storage on hand is way, way down compared to previous years. There are water concerns in south Texas and a number of growers after two pretty tough years were saying they were going to cut back; we confirmed that talking to suppliers so we decided to do just the opposite. We just kind of put together all the pieces of information and laid em out on the table and said, ‘You know what? The compass is saying do more.’ We went against the grain and we planted more. It was a calculated risk. I said then, ‘If this works it’s going to be great but if it doesn’t, I don’t know what we’re going to do.’ “
Now, “The markets are solid, there’s good demand for our sweet onions — we do also have a handful of reds and a handful of whites — but again some risky early plantings paid off,” Mr. Martin said. “So we’re going to be busy.”