Potatoes may not be trading at the high prices of several years ago, but higher summer prices have carried over to create an overall stronger fall and winter market for Chicago-based Agrow Fresh.
Firmer conditions were particularly evident for red potatoes, said Ed Romanelli, vice president of sales and marketing.
“Red potatoes will get higher priced after the holiday, I would think,” he said. The growing season in the Red River Valley of Minnesota and North Dakota contributed to the shorter red supply from that region, he said. Some growers there have projected yields 20% off normal, he said.
Idaho russet supplies and quality are good this year, Romanelli said.
The 2013 average price for potatoes in the Chicago terminal market for all varieties, origins and packages was $25.19 per carton for the period of Jan. 5 through Nov. 23, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Prices began the year at $20 per carton, peaking at $33.10 the week of Aug. 17 and falling back to $23.05 per carton by Nov. 23.
That is up considerably from 2012, when average Chicago terminal market price for all potatoes was $21.25 per carton.
Business conditions in the Chicago market have seen an uptick, Romanelli said, especially related to independent retailers buying from Joliet, Ill.-based Central Grocers, the cooperative that supplies about 400 supermarket stores in the Chicago region.
In addition, Romanelli said Jewel’s retail chain market is starting to perform very well in the Chicago market and Mariano’s influence is expanding, he said.
Romanelli said Agrow Fresh is still fine-tuning its 5-pound lay-flat package for potatoes. The appeal of the tamper-resistant package is maximizing sales for retailers per square foot, as the lay-flat package allows for more volume than a traditional consumer bag. The bag also features a light blocking material that preserves potato quality by preventing greening.
“We are working on it,” he said. “We feel that down the road it is going to be an item more people want to look at,” he said.
The firm already offers 1.5-pound and 3-pound lay flat pack for reds, yukon golds, fingerlings and purple potatoes.