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Strong Peruvian onion crop following good Vidalia season

Delbert Bland, owner and president of Vidalia, GA-based Bland Farms LLC, estimates that he has been going to the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit for a quarter century — and he’ll be in Orlando again in October.

“Naturally, we’ll be promoting sweet onions, which is what we are known for,” he told The Produce News about a month before the convention and trade show kicks off. “We’ll have our sweet onions from Peru.”PeruPremium-1

Bland noted that the company grows the exact same variety in Peru that made Vidalia famous. “They look the same, they taste the same and they are the same shape,” he said, adding that consumers cannot tell the onions apart. “I can’t even tell the difference and I grow them.”

Bland Farms attempts to produce a steady volume of onions all year with a seamless transition from one district to the next. He said the company offers onions in just about every pack there is so it will not be featuring anything new or out of the ordinary at the PMA convention.  “Just the same good quality onions,” he quipped. “We had a fairly good year in Vidalia with very good quality. We did have some adverse weather, which cut down the size of the onions, but overall it was a decent year.”

He said Peru is following suit. “We do our own growing in Peru so we have control over it. We have a very good onion this year.”

For the October time frame, Bland said there would be good supplies, though not a “flood of onions on the market. The price is usually pretty steady and around that time there should be enough volume for promotions.”

Bland Farms is also marketing more organic sweet onions from Peru this season. “We have a good crop and it seems to be a popular item with more demand every year,” he said, adding that growing conditions in Peru make it a bit easier to produce an organic onion crop in that South American country than in Georgia. “We don’t have the weed problem in Peru that we have in Vidalia so you can get by with a little less work.”

However, he added that growing an organic onion crop is inherently more difficult than a conventional onion and takes several years of experience to learn how to do it right.

At the time of this interview in mid-September, Bland said the first fields of sweet potatoes in Georgia were nearing maturity. “Harvest will begin soon and we should have Georgia sweet potatoes by Oct. 1 and run through April.”

For the summer months, North Carolina is the source for sweet potatoes, giving Bland Farms another crop that it produces on a 12-month basis, and another commodity to tout to convention-goers during Fresh Summit.

“PMA is a very important show for us,” Bland said.  “It’s the one main show we go to every year. We take a lot of our people there and make it a big deal.”