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Opinions mixed on Vidalia onion pack date

Article by The Packer

VIDALIA, Ga. — 2017 is the second year Vidalia onions have had an officially mandated start date for packing, and some growers see a retail advantage.

This year’s starting pack date is April 12.

“Last year was the first year as an industry we had an organized start date,” said John Shuman, president of Shuman Produce, Reidsville. “I think most retailers were prepared. They let their inventory of other sweet onions wind down, and they prepared the chain of distribution for Vidalia onions.

“They promoted them, and we put a good quality product on the market. It was the biggest volume year the industry has ever seen. We think it’s a positive for the industry.”

Generation Farms, Lake Park, had a similar experience with the first year of the pack date, and general manager Vince Stanley thinks 2017 holds more of the same.

“We had no negative comments from retailers at all,” Stanley said. “We did a good job educating them about the earlier crop. In 2016, the response to the pack date was amazing, and we’re expecting a repeat of this year.”

“Having a date in place, giving retailers something to shoot for when notifying consumers has been an advantage,” said Aries Haygood, operations manager for M&T Farms, Lyons.

Others say the pack date’s only effect is to control how early or late retailers start their Vidalia program.

“It really has no impact on how the retailer operates,” said Steven Shuman, sales manager at G&R Farms, Glennville. “We know well in advance when the date will be, and we immediately notify our customer base. They may start their programs earlier or later, but that would be the main impact on the retail side.”

“I know retailers pretty well. Retailers want to get Vidalia onions, and it has nothing to do with the date on the calendar,” said Delbert Bland, president of Bland Farms, Glennville.

“You’re only going to buy so many sweet onions a week anyway. It doesn’t make sense to not ship Georgia onions when they’re ready.”