With only a couple of weeks of old crop potato remaining, shippers and buyers are scrambling to meet supply demands.
Unusually smaller old crop storage supplies and planting and weather disruptions across growing regions delayed the start of new crop harvesting and produced late summer price spikes.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. potato shipments for the weeks ending July 27 and Aug. 3 were 1.5 million cwt. and 1.4 million cwt. respectively. That’s down 15% and 24%, respectively, compared to the same weeks in 2012.
“Right now, anyone who can get a spud to market will do it because the market’s so strong,” Rick Ward, sales manager with Haun Potato Co., Kansas City, Mo., said Aug. 6. “Prices are all over the board depending on if the shipper has anything to sell other than contract commitments.”
In early August, Ward quoted $17.50-20 for 50-pound cartons of old crop Idaho russets while new crop Colorado and Nebraska potatoes were marketing for $21 for the same size cartons.
On Aug. 6, the USDA reported similar prices for 50-pound cartons of 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 100s from Idaho’s Upper Valley and Twin Falls-Burley districts.
That’s higher than last season when the USDA on Aug. 11, 2012, reported 50-pound cartons of 40s, 50s and 60s from the same growing region selling for $10.5-11.6; 70s, $10-11; 80s and 90s, $9-10 and 100s fetching $8.5-9.
Harvesting in Rupert, Idaho, began Aug. 6, and growers are experiencing some skinning problems, Ward said.
He said he expects Idaho to increase production by late August.
Texas is starting some russets and Washington began in late July in light volume, Ward said.
“Everyone thought we had a long crop this year,” said Kevin Stanger, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC, Idaho Falls. “Because of some quality and other issues, this long crop became extremely short here this past month. Not only in Idaho, but other major producing states are running out. Supplies have been left in for just a few last people who had anything available.”
During the week of Aug. 5, Stanger said western Idaho growers were starting and said he expects harvesting of norkotah russets to be running strong in late August and early September.
Stanger said Idaho growers planted fewer acres and characterized the new season’s crop as typical.
He said the deal should bring adequate availability.
While the USDA reported weekly volume of old crop shipments from Idaho and Washington-Oregon to be higher in late July and early August than the previous season, shipments from Colorado this season were off by as much as a third.
Volume is also expected to be considerably lower in the Red River Valley, said Tom Campbell, an owner and partner with Grafton, N.D.-based Campbell Farms.
“One-fourth of the whole crop could be lost due to drown out from the spring flooding and the crop’s lateness,” he said Aug. 7. “Without a doubt, the valley will be down in numbers. It could be down a million bags. Everything’s been late. The whole country has had lots of rain and drown-outs.”
Campbell said Big Lake, Minn., harvesting began Aug. 7 and said he didn’t expect Red River Valley harvesting to commence in volume until Oct. 1.
He said reds were garnering $40-50 a cwt. in July but said prices fell to $30-40 in early August.