Florida and California shippers report brisk movement of high-quality summer potatoes.
By the week of May 19, the southern Florida potato deal had wound down for most shippers, said Adam Lytch, operations manager for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc.
That same week, L&M was starting to peak on its Tri-County program in Florida, which was benefiting from near-ideal growing conditions, Lytch said.
“We have pretty good volume on all colors — reds, whites and yellows. The quality is absolutely superb. Across the board, it’s the best I can remember.”
Lake Wales, Fla.-based Mack Farms Inc. wrapped its southern Florida deal the week of May 26 and also reported excellent quality on early northern spuds, said Chandler Mack, vice president of operations.
“We had a few issues early on, but they straightened out and we’re starting to get good quality.”
The slow start in the north created a slight gap between the southern and northern Florida deals this season, Mack said.
“We were able to cover the business we were committed for, but it was difficult to take on new business.”
Mack Farms expected normal volumes out of its northern deal this season.
Shipments started on time for L&M, but it took longer than usual to ramp up to peak volumes, Lytch said. L&M expects to ship from Tri-County into late June.
Late May markets were in flux, Lytch said.
“They’re kind of all over the board. Some are demanding new, some are using old. We’re getting a lot of retailers switched over to the new crop. Once they switch, they’re not going back.”
Transportation also was throwing a wrench in markets.
“The main problem the past week has been trucks,” Lytch said. “They’ve been really tight, and it’s affecting prices.”
Mack Farms expected steady demand through its northern Florida deal, though markets were coming off some in late May.
“We’ve seen really good movement,” Mack said.
Tasteful Selections — a joint venture of potato grower-shippers Bancroft, Wis.-based RPE Inc.; Watertown, S.D.-based CSS Farms Inc.; and Stevens Point, Wis.-based Plover River Farms Inc. — kicked off its Bakersfield, California, new crop deal the last week in April, said Randy Shell, RPE’s vice president of marketing and new business development.
“The crop is looking to shape up very nicely,” Shell said. “We’re anticipating average or slightly above average yields with very nice quality.”
The Bakersfield harvest should last through June, with supplies available through September, Shell said.
“The quality so far has been excellent, and volumes look to be right on par for an average yield or slightly better,” Shell said.
Movement of the small potatoes and fingerlings Tasteful Selections sources from California should be brisk this season.
“We continue to see nice year over year increases in demand, and we’re looking forward to steady growth and promotional opportunities as the season progresses.”