“Based on what we’ve heard from growers and shippers, the California onion season will start in the week of April 13”, says John Stancati with Railex. During the first week of harvest, volumes are usually limited. “In the week of April 20, things will pick up in a big way and we will start shipping onions by rail car”, added Stancati.
Rail car shipments until early September
The California onion season can be broken down into two geographic regions. Harvest will start in the desert region, in Brawley and El Centro. Shipments are expected to start in the third week of April and will continue through late May/early June. The majority of California’s onion crop however, will be harvested in the Huron Valley, Bakersfield and Stockton areas. Shipment out of these regions is expected to start in the second week of June and will be at full speed until late August or early September. At that time, production volumes will shift to Washington State.
Railex transports California onions by rail car from its facility in Delano, CA to Rotterdam, NY as well as Jacksonville, FL. Railex works with local trucking companies to pick up the crop from the grower, bring it to the company’s facility in Delano and load it onto the rail car. The door-to-door trip from Delano to the East Coast takes seven to eight days.
Cold chain management
Cold chain management during shipment is key. “The California onion season is unique in the sense that the onions have field-heat due to the high outside temperatures”, said Stancati. “Prior to shipment, we find out the pulp temperature as that helps us in setting the preferred temperature during shipment. We maintain the cold chain from door to door by setting the rail cars at the desired temperature, storing the onions in a temperature controlled facility and by constantly monitoring.”
In addition to onions, Railex ships several other produce varieties from the West Coast to the East Coast. These include, but are not limited to citrus, potatoes, carrots, broccoli, celery, cantaloupes, honeydews and grapes.
Publication date: 4/1/2015