Excessive rain could cause Vidalia onion prices to rise

Channel 2 Meteorologist Katie Walls reports.

TOOMBS COUNTY, Ga. — Vidalia onions could cost you more this season because of severe storms and hot temperatures that affected this year’s crop.

The 20 counties permitted to grow the official state vegetable were hit by damaging wind, hail and heat.

“We're down about 20 to 25 percent,” said local Vidalia farmer Aries Haygood with M&T Farms.

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Haygood told Channel 2’s Katie Walls it was the heavy rainfall at the beginning of planting season and again in the spring.

“We had a couple big rain showers during planting season that washed a lot of our onions away before they could set their root,” Haygood said.

In the latter part of the season, rain caused the onions to retain water in what appears like water blisters, making them unsellable.

Officials behind the $150 million Vidalia onion industry set high standards for what can go on store shelves.

The smaller harvest count means grocery stores have a shorter supply. Stores may raise their prices because they are more likely to run out of their stock.

“What you're probably going to see is certain stores running out sooner than other stores. It just depends on the supplier supplying each particular store,” said Haygood.

Haygood estimates their packaging process will wrap up mid-July, earlier than normal.

“The 2014-15 Vidalia Onion Crop has had its share of extreme weather.  All in all, we have grown a pretty good crop.  We started the season with about 600-800 acres less than we have planted in the past few years.  But, we feel like we will market 4.4 million bushels for the season, and that compares to an average of 5 million bushels over recent years.  The heavy wind, rain, and some hail damage brought the bulk of the loss.  The hail damage is an obvious loss, but with about three storm fronts in April bringing 40 miles per hour wind, we saw a lot of tops laying on the ground for a few days.  That limits the size that the onions will grow in that particular field.  Some growers naturally were affected more than others, depending on these storm fronts.  With a handful of growers having a really good crop," says Cliff M. Riner with the UGA Extension Vidalia Onion & Vegetable Research Center.