Potatoes from Colorado’s San Luis Valley could be shipping in earnest by the end of August, earlier than usual.

As of Aug. 7, the valley crop was running about five days ahead of schedule for Center, Colo.-based Aspen Produce LLC, said Jed Ellithorpe, partner and marketing director.

“By the last week of August it should start to ramp up pretty good,” Ellithorpe said.

The valley hasn’t had much severe weather this season, but because of heat and drought, Bob Noffsinger, salesman for Center, Colo.-based Skyline Potato Co., characterized the overall growing weather as average.

Acreage is up slightly, and yields also are likely to be up slightly, but Ellithorpe is taking optimistic approach to the upcoming season, in which all of the major U.S. potato-producing states are expected to ship more spuds.

“Let’s rise to the challenge, move this crop and make consumers happy,” he said.

As of Aug. 7, it was too soon to predict what markets would look like when Colorado’s harvest gets into full swing, Noffsinger said.

“Right now there’s some pressure on pricing because of the rumors” of big volumes nationwide in 2012-13, he said. “But we’re a long way from having harvest finished. We’ll know more in October and November.”

On Aug. 7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $10 for 50-pound cartons of russets 40-70 from Idaho, down from $17 last year at the same time.

Some shippers are hanging on to storage spuds longer than usual because it’s much easier to manage their temperatures, and there is no guarantee all old-crop spuds will be out of the pipeline by the time new-crop potatoes begin shipping, Ellithorpe said.

“If you’re going to be messing around this time of year with old crop, there’s a chance you may not sell all of it,” he said.

That said, he expects a fairly good transition from old-crop to new-crop valley potatoes this year.

Normally, storage spuds are cleaned out by early August, Noffsinger said. That’s not the case this year, but he said there wouldn’t be enough to clog the pipeline once new-crop spuds begin shipping.

Quality was looking good as of the week of Aug. 6, Ellithorpe said.

“We’ve been digging around, and we’re really pleased with what we see,” he said. “It looks like an excellent crop.”

Early russet varieties were sizing well, Ellithorpe said.

The valley did suffer some hail damage, but nothing out of the ordinary, Ellithorpe said.

Drought conditions have forced some growers to scale back on acreage this year, Ellithorpe said, but the overall effect on acreage industrywide could be as low as 1%.