- Associated Press - Monday, January 16, 2017

PAYETTE, Idaho (AP) - Severe weather and snow buildup has caused the roofs of about 18 onion storage and packing facilities to collapse in southwestern Idaho and eastern Oregon.

Roof collapses in the Treasure Valley have wiped out 25 percent of the region’s total onion processing capacity, leading to soaring onion prices, The Capital Press reported (https://bit.ly/2itTFPH). A 50-pound bag of yellow jumbo onions cost $3.50 before the damage and now costs about $6.50.

There are about 300 onion farmers and 30 onion shippers in the region, which produces about 25 percent of the nation’s storage onions.

Heavy snowstorms starting in December followed by near-freezing rain and then more snow have caused many structures in the area to collapse. At least four onion packing facilities have had their roofs collapse beneath the weight of snow and ice and at least 14 storage facilities have collapsed as well.

Murakami Produce General Manager Grant Kitamura, who is also chairman of the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee’s promotion committee said the region’s weather is having a serious impact on onions.

“This is major. There are a lot of them down,” he said.

Partners Produce’s main onion packing facility in Payette, Idaho, collapsed and will be out of commission for at least seven months, said co-owner Eddie Rodriguez.

“I have 25-30 million pounds of onions that were destined to run through that line,” he said.

The company’s empty inventory holding facility also collapsed. Kitamura said at least three of the four onion packing facilities impacted will be out of commission for the rest of the season.

Paul Skeen, president of the Malheur County Onion Growers Association, said the disruption will also cause problems for onion growers.

“When a shipper loses their packing line, it’s not just him but all his growers have to figure out what to do as well,” he said. “All those onions have to go somewhere.”

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Information from: The Capital Press (Ore.), https://www.capitalpress.com/washington

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