Bigger potatoes may be in short supply - The Packer

Bigger potatoes may be in short supply

11/04/2011 09:55:00 AM
Ashley Bentley

Despite weather-caused delays during the planting and harvesting seasons over most of the country’s potato acreage, the national supply should be generous for the 2011-12 season.

“We think there are going to be ample potato supplies again this year,” said Mike Gorczyca, procurement manager for foodservice distributor Pro*Act, Monterey, Calif.

Gorczyca said he expects supplies to be tighter for the larger potatoes, 70-count and up.

“Once everything gets into storage I think supplies are going to tend toward 100s, 90s and 80s,” Gorczyca said. “As you get into the 70s and larger, supplies are going to be limited as they were last year.”

The size profile for potatoes coming out of Wisconsin is also down slightly, said Mike Carter, chief executive officer of Bushmans’ Inc., Rosholt, Wis.

“Yields were definitely down in Wisconsin pretty well across the board,” Carter said. “Supplies aren’t where we hoped, but it sounds like there are additional supplies in other areas we can take advantage of.”

Colorado is one of those areas.

“From a 30,000 foot level, Idaho’s size profile appears to be down, but then you have Colorado which grew a huge crop this year with all these huge potatoes,” Carter said. “It almost seems that it’s going to even out, Colorado’s going to be shipping a ton of boxes, Idaho’s going to be shipping bags, and we’re going to be the just-in-time guys.”

Idaho’s overall acreage was up this year, largely because of contracts for the processing market, said Frank Muir, president and chief executive officer of the Idaho Potato Commission, Eagle. The volume going into the fresh market is similar to last year, Muir said.

During the 2010-11 season, the state had its first frost the very first week of September, killing the crop and limiting its size, said Travis Blacker, president of the Idaho Falls-based Idaho Grower Shippers Association. This year the first frost wasn’t until early October, so the potatoes had a longer time to grow.

In Wisconsin, potatoes got into the ground two weeks late this spring because of low temperatures, and Carter said growers spent the rest of the spring and summer expecting the crop to catch up.

“At the end of the season, we never really did catch up from that late planting,” Carter said.

Quality is there, though, Carter said. Bushmans’ markets a full line of potatoes, with russets making up the bulk of its business. The company co-owns the Sierra Gold potato with Discovery Gardens, and also markets red and yellow potatoes in its specialty line.

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