Heat could affect Idaho potato sizes - The Packer

Heat could affect Idaho potato sizes

09/12/2013 10:44:00 AM
Andy Nelson

Idaho potatoes logoHigh summer temperatures could affect the size of Idaho potatoes this season.

Wada Farms Marketing LLC, Idaho Falls, Idaho, began harvesting russets the week of Aug. 19, and expects to finish Oct. 15-20, said Chris Wada, director of marketing and exports.

That’s a typical end, but the company will still be watching the skies and thermometers as harvest winds down, Wada said.

“Once you hit Oct. 10, you start to get a little nervous.”

Quality has been good in early lots of Wada Farms russets, and sizing slightly smaller than normal, but the company won’t get a clear picture on either until harvest is further along, Wada said Sept. 9.

“Right now it’s skewing to consumers and cartons, but you can’t say that will be the same going forward,” he said. “Some fields have good size in them.”

Gary Garnand, owner of Garnand Marketing LLC, Twin Falls, Idaho, also said early reports on the 2013-14 Idaho crop were positive.

“From what I’m hearing, I think the overall quality is very good,” he said. “The early norkotahs are nice. It’s too early to tell on the burbanks. I’ve heard the early burbanks are a little smaller, and rougher, because of the heat.”

Norkotahs also could be slightly smaller than usual this year because of the scorching Idaho summer, Garnand said.

“Interesting” was how Frank Muir, president and chief executive officer of the Eagle-based Idaho Potato Commission, characterized late summer growing weather in Idaho. In addition to high temperatures, some fields were pummeled by hail, the effects of which remain to be seen, Muir said Sept. 10.

But quality on the roughly 5% of the crop that had been picked as of Sept. 10 was very good, Muir said.

Idaho potato yields could be slightly off this season, Garnand added, though in early September it was hard to tell for certain.

As far as markets go, they’ll weaken as product ramps up, but Wada is cautiously optimistic heading into the new season.

“The outlook isn’t like last year in terms of dramatic oversupply,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll find a happy medium. We don’t want prices to be too high or too low.”

On Sept. 10, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $17-18 for 50-pound cartons of norkotahs 40-70 from Idaho, up from $5.50-6 last year at the same time.

Markets were in flux in the first half of September, but when they settle, they should be stronger than last year, at least at the beginning of the deal and particular on large spuds, Garnand said.

“I expect fairly strong pricing on bigger cartons,” he said. “If markets get soft, I expect growers to go heavy to storage.”



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