Potato marketers see lower volumes, firm pricing

November 29, 2017 02:23 PM
 
Tough growing conditions in some regions — and a wide range of temperatures during harvest — led to a U.S. potato crop that marketers describe as about average.

Tough growing conditions in some regions — and a wide range of temperatures during harvest — led to a U.S. potato crop that marketers describe as about average.

“This year we faced a few obstacles, with frequent springtime rains and higher-than-normal fall temperatures,” said Tim Huffcutt, marketing director with the Bancroft, Wis.-based Russet Potato Exchange Inc.

“It affected the overall potato crop portfolio, but we are grateful to be experiencing average yields per acre.”

Quality is high, Huffcutt said.

“In fact, new crop red potatoes have been some of the best we have seen.”

In Friesland, Wis., Alsum Farms & Produce finished its harvest later than normal on Oct. 26 because of unseasonably warm temperatures that reached into the 90s.

“Overall, the size profile is larger in size (than) previous years,” said Christine Lindner, national sales and marketing manager with Alsum Farms.

An average crop emerged in the Red River Valley region of North Dakota and Minnesota, said Randy Boushey, president and CEO of A&L Potato Co. in East Grand Forks, Minn.

“We started out wet last spring and dried out through the summer, and we ended up with an average crop on our East Grand Forks farm,” he said.

Quality varied widely, Boushey said.

In Grand Forks, N.D., Black Gold Farms was pleased with its crop, said Keith Goven, fresh sales manager.

“We’ve had as good quality as we’ve had in several years in Red River Valley,” he said.

“We had a crop with high yields with exceptional quality.”

In Colorado, MountainKing Potatoes of Monte Vista also reported a good crop.

“We’ve got plenty of golds and fingerlings. The quality is very good throughout all the varieties,” said Andreas Trettin, marketing director.

Mountain King has about 20 potato varieties, Trettin said.

 

Idaho challenges

Idaho grower-shippers reported weather challenges this year.

“It was a difficult harvest. We had a lot of cold weather and rain that delayed harvest,” said Ryan Wahlen, sales manager for Pleasant Valley Potato Inc., Aberdeen, Idaho.

Pleasant Valley completed its harvest in the last week of October, compared with a usual finish in the first week of the month.

“It was a long harvest — seven weeks,” Wahlen said.

Yields were generally lower than hoped for, Wahlen said.

“Some early fields were off as many as 70 sacks per acre, relative to last year. Other fields 10-15 sacks less,” he said.

“Overall, we were down quite a bit compared to last year. With acres being off, the supply situation is very tight.”

That will make a difference in how the crop is marketed, Wahlen said.

“You have to make sure you’re smart how you do it and take care of customers who have supported you throughout the years,” he said.

Yields fell “a little below trend line” for Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC, said Eric Beck, marketing director.

“Quality this year is great. Skin sets have been nice, darker netting, compared to last year,” he said.

Market volume in general should be short, particularly in russets, across Idaho, said Ralph Schwartz, vice president of sales with Idaho Falls-based Potandon Produce.

“The russet crop is going to be shorter than most people are used to seeing. It’s going to be down 5% to 10% of last year’s crop, for the industry,” he said.

Markets were firm as November started, Schwartz said.

“People still want deals available last year, but it’s a different season,” he said. “It’s firm and feels like it’s going to strengthen in the next couple of weeks.”

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