Onion industry readies for challenging season

Photo by 
Larry Meyer |
The Argus ObserverPhoto by Larry Meyer | The Argus Observer

As packers wrap 2016, some will move

by Larry Meyer, The Argus Observer

ONTARIO, OREGON — As local onions packers are wrapping up sorting, packaging and shipping the 2016 crop, they are looking ahead to 2017. This year, packers will deal with a variety of challenges brought on from several sources.

One of the main sources was a winter not seen in decades. It dumped piles of snow and took down or heavily damaged a number of buildings, including a number of onions sheds both packing and storage.

“We have about a week left,” Grant Kitamura, at Murakami Produce said, noting the 2016 crop is about out the door and has been storing well.

“I didn’t lose any onions,” he said, but, “It was an expensive winter.”

While Murakami produce did not have any buildings lost, there were building which were damaged, coupled with the cost of a lot of snow removal. All in all, however,  things turned out not too bad, Kitamura said.

The main construction for Murakami Produce is a joint project underway with Baker Packing, both in Ontario, for a new “state-of-the-art” packing facility, with machinery coming in from Europe,” Kitamura said. The two firms are in the process of merging.


Payette-based Partners Produce is moving ahead with its rebuilding projects after the damaging winter.

At least 11 of its facilities collapsed or were compromised, George Rodriquez Sr., who heads the family operation, said.

“Five buildings collapsed completely,” he said.

Looking ahead toward the harvest and the start of the packing system, however, the company has arranged for the construction of new buildings and new equipment.

Presently, plans call for four storage buildings, a new fresh pack line and a new processing facility, with a tunnel freezer.

Contractors have been hired, Rodriquez said, and the buildings ordered, but it was a challenge.

“Everybody is busy,” he said

New machinery has also been ordered.

Another challenge is the cost of building materials, he said, which have gone way up.