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

Yields have looked good in Washington, although the state also ran a few weeks behind in planting and harvesting this year, said Karen Bonaudi, director of marketing and industry for the Washington State Potato Commission.

The western side of the state, in particular, was having trouble wrapping up harvest late October because of rain, Bonaudi said. Growers also tried to leave the spuds in the ground as late as possible to let them size up, which they hadn’t done through the mild summer.

Eastern Washington is responsible for most of the state’s russet potatoes, while the western side of the state is home to more red, yellow, gold and other specialty varieties, including purple and blue potatoes and fingerlings, Bonaudi said.

Ted Kreis, marketing and communications director for the East Grand Forks, Minn.-based Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, said the supply of red potatoes nationwide will be manageable at current or higher prices. Processors appear to be short of contracted potatoes, which could help the fresh russet market price and in turn the red potato growers, Kreis said.

Supplies of red potatoes grown in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota are on par with the average, said Paul Dolan, general manager of Associated Potato Growers, Grand Forks, N.D.

“Quality is better than last year,” Dolan said. “The size profile is a nice marketable profile, not to have too many in any one size.”

Muir said the supply situation in Idaho is similar to the 2010-11 season, which resulted in record prices for potatoes, especially on cartons. The markets have backed off since harvest began this spring, but many expect them to firm up throughout the season.

Firmer market coming

“Markets are down right now, having come off quite a bit from a few months ago, which is usually the case during harvest,” said Jamey Higham, vice president of foodservice for Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Potandon Produce. “Once everything’s in storage I expect it to firm up a bit.”

Muir said cartons should be a big opportunity for shippers again this year.

“You could see the market firm up in January and February,” Pro*Act’s Gorczyca said. “That’s when we’ll see if we don’t have the top of the size chart.”

Norkotahs, which tend to be larger than russet burbanks, should last through the first of the year.

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