A worker harvests vidalia onions

A worker harvests Vidalia onions.

Credit: AP Photo/David Goldman

Expect to pay more for Georgia’s sweet Vidalia onions this year.

Tuesday is packing day for Vidalia onions: the first day each year that the state Department of Agriculture allows the official state vegetable to be packaged and sold.

About 50 Vidalia onion growers planted about 10,000 acres of the crop this season.

Bob Stafford of the Vidalia Onion Committee says that’s about normal. But what isn’t normal is the costs growers have had to shoulder over the past year.

Bob Stafford on Vidalia onion prices.

“We took a big licking on products, fertilizer and so forth and the gas prices has caused that to go up excessively, actually," Stafford said. "So we’re having to factor that in with our pricing.”

Vidalia onions are a $150 million crop in Georgia and state regulated to protect their unique brand and quality.

A sign advertising Georgia's trademark Vidalia onions.

A sign advertising Georgia's trademark Vidalia onions.

Credit: File photo

Vidalia onions shipped across the world come from just 20 counties in Southeast Georgia, where low-sulfur soil and other factors are credited with giving them a sweetness that’s been touted by farmers since the 1930s.

For Stafford, there's no beating the taste of a raw Vidalia onion.

Bob Stafford on his favorite way to eat Vidalia onions

"My favorite way to eat them is raw," he said.  "I love to eat them raw. I can cool them down, slice them, and just eat them raw in a salad — that's when you get the real taste of a Vidalia onion."

About 200 million pounds of the onions come out of the ground in this region every year.

State and federal laws protecting the Vidalia onion trademark have been in effect since the late 1980s.

Georgia law gives the agriculture commissioner powers that include setting a shipping date in consultation with farmers.