Red River spuds draw strong demand

10/31/2012 10:45:00 AM
Andy Nelson

Grower-shippers and officials expect brisk movement for a promotable crop of red potatoes from the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota.

“Demand has been very good, and it’s encouraging, because it looks like we’ll have a large crop,” said Ted Kreis, marketing and communications director for the East Grand Forks, Minn.-based Northern Plains Potato Growers Association.

The expected size of the crop comes as something a surprise, given how dry conditions were in the valley in late summer, Kreis said.

They were so dry, many growers stopped digging in September, he said. But early fall rains allowed growers to get back into fields in October, and harvest was expected to wind down in early November, Kreis said.

As of Oct. 31, harvest was about 90% finished for Grand Forks, N.D.-based Associated Potato Growers Inc., said Paul Dolan, general manager. And with good weather forecasted for the first week of November, the company should have little trouble getting to at least 95% done.

Dolan expected prices to stay steady in coming weeks.

“It’s already a bargain price — I hope it doesn’t go any lower,” he said.

Prices will likely be lower overall than the past two years, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Dolan said.

“This year they should be more in line with a prices that will move product,” he said. “Consumers will get a real nice product for a good price.”

Kreis reported a smooth transition from the Big Lake and Long Prairie growing regions of Minnesota to the Red River Valley. Heading into late fall and winter, Kreis expected prices to hold firm or slightly increase.

“It’s been very steady since we started harvest,” he said. “I don’t see the price getting any lower.”

On Oct. 30, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $6 for 50-pound sacks of size A from the valley, down from $11 last year. Sacks of size B were $10, down from $16-17.

Volumes in 2012-13 will likely wind up being closer to the 5-year average of 4.3 million cwt., up from last year’s 3.9 million cwt., Kreis said.

Higher yields in the valley this season will likely be offset to some degree by higher shrink, due to bruised spuds harvested before the fall rains, Dolan said.

Spuds harvested after the rains, however, were largely bruise-free, he said.

Dolan said the crop would lean more heavily toward size A spuds this season, with fewer B’s and premiums likely. Kreis agreed that B supplies could wind up being slightly lower than average.



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