Demand for some U.S. potatoes was showing signs in mid-April of picking up.
Wisconsin and Colorado russet markets would likely stay stable heading into summer, but prices for Idaho spuds could rise, said Kevin Stanger, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC, Idaho Falls, Idaho.
“Things could tighten a bit in May and June, and we could see a market bump,” Stanger said.
On April 15, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $8 for 50-pound cartons of Idaho russets 40s, up from $5.50-6 last year at the same time.
For Rosholt, Wis.-based Bushmans’ Inc. and other Wisconsin grower-shippers, it was business as usual in mid-April, said Mike Carter, Bushmans’ chief executive officer.
“It’s as close to normal as you can probably get in this state,” Carter said. “We’re right on track.”
Carter said he expects markets for Wisconsin potatoes to remain stable as spring progresses.
In mid-April, about half of the fresh-markets sheds in the Red River Valley were still shipping, typical for that time of year, said Ted Kreis, marketing and communications director of the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, East Grand Forks, N.D.
Some will wind down in April, a few more in May and one or two shippers typically still ship in June, Kreis said.
After being stable all winter, markets dipped a bit when Florida began shipping new-crop reds, but then were showing signs of strengthening again in April.
Some buyers who had initially switched to Florida came back to the valley because of outstanding quality, Kreis said.
“The quality is surprisingly still very good,” he said. “They’re a nice, dark red. I saw some in the store yesterday that looked fantastic.”
The quality of the 2013-14 russet storage crop, meanwhile, was holding steady in mid-April, Stanger said.
“This time of the season, there are always a few bumps, but from what we’re hearing, it’s kind of average.”
Aside from some hollow heart, which shippers can detect and deal with effectively, the quality of the Wisconsin storage crop was good in mid-April, Carter said.
“You get to this time of year, and you wonder if the crop will hold, and it’s holding great.”
Snow delays plantings
The morning of April 15, Carter looked out his window and had trouble reconciling what he was seeing with the calendar.
“It could be January,” he said. “We had several inches of snow Sunday night.”
That ended Bushmans’ and other Wisconsin growers’ plans to begin planting for the 2014-15 season the week of April 14, but a slight delay wasn’t worrying growers, Carter said.
“It will be a little late compared to what normal is, but we’re still well ahead of last year,” he said. “And even with last year being so late, we had a huge crop.”
In other areas of the country, plantings were right on schedule.
“For Idaho, we did not have an abnormal winter,” Stanger said. “We’re starting to plant. It’s a normal time frame.”
Stanger had also heard that growers in other major potato growing regions weren’t worried about planting delays as of mid-April.
Red River Valley growers don’t plant until May at the earliest, so as of mid-April the cold and snow weren’t affecting schedules, Kreis said.