The effects of summer rain and hail will likely put a dent in potato volumes this season, but growers are optimistic at the beginning of harvests.
Some Colorado growers should begin harvesting shortly after Labor Day, but the deal won’t likely be in full swing until about Sept. 10, said Jim Ehrlich, executive director of the Colorado Potato Administration Committee, Monte Vista.
About 20% of Colorado acreage received hail damage this summer, but most of it was minor, Ehrlich said.
“What was a bumper crop is now just a good crop. From everything growers have said, we should have good yields and quality. We anticipate a really nice crop.”
Late rains in Wisconsin were complicating the start of the 2014 harvest, said Mike Carter, chief executive officer of Rosholt, Wis.-based Bushmans’ Inc.
“Up until 10 days ago, we were having an outstanding growing season,” Carter said Aug. 26. “Then it started raining.”
It’s too soon to tell exactly what effects the rains will have, but yields will be lower, Carter said. Bushmans’ acreage is similar to last year, he said. The company began digging Aug. 18.
“What we’re digging now is outstanding, and the size is what we’d expect for this time of year.”
It was a similar story at the beginning of the Idaho season, said Kevin Stanger, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC, Idaho Falls, Idaho.
“Overall, the crop looks good, but we had some excessive moisture the last week or two that slowed things down,” Stanger said Aug. 26. “It’s a little early to tell what the damage is. It may affect some sizing.”
Stanger reported good quality on the first potatoes out of the ground in August. After Labor Day, most Idaho growers should be shipping in volume, he said.
The 2013 Colorado storage crop cleaned up well this summer, paving the way for a smooth transition to new-crop spuds, Ehrlich said.
Acreage in the San Luis Valley is up about 8% from last year, Ehrlich said. Growers also expect slightly better yields than in 2013.
“There will be a little more volume, but it should be manageable.”
That said, Ehrlich said growers were hoping for an uptick in demand as their harvests neared.
“It’s been pretty flat,” he said. “It’s a concern.”
Carter reported steady demand in late August.
“It’s right about where it should be, what we’d anticipate for August. When kids go back to school, people start to cook differently and we see a bump.”
Stanger also was optimistic about early-season demand.
“It’s been pretty good. Larger cartons have been tight, and retail demand has been good.”
On Aug. 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $7-7.50 for 50-pound cartons of russets 40-80s from Idaho, down from $17-18 last year at the same time.