United Potato’s bright start shines less brightly - The Packer

United Potato’s bright start shines less brightly

01/06/2012 08:48:00 AM
Andy Nelson

On Dec. 30, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service released its Agricultural Prices report, which reported that the December price of potatoes, while up from November, was more than a dollar lower per cwt. than a year ago at the same time.

It wasn’t the Christmas present or New Year’s greeting spud grower-shippers were expecting, and it’s just the latest in a series of headaches they’re seeking a cure for.

The organization’s whole reason for being is to rein in acreage to buoy markets, but on Nov. 30, a USDA report revealed that U.S. fall production rose 5% from 2010.

Not surprisingly, a mid-December USDA report found that about 250 million cwt. of potatoes had yet to be shipped from the top 13 producing states on Dec. 1, 4% more than the year before.

Minus a big, unexpected surge in demand, it was therefore no surprise to learn that spuds averaged $8.86 per cwt. in December, down from $9.94 in December 2010.

All potential causes for concern, even if connecting the dots between acreage, supply and price is easier said than done.

Also in December, those USDA numbers quickly were swallowed up by the two larger dramas facing United Potato: the sudden departure of its leader and a judge’s ruling that could threaten the very foundation of the organization.

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