Excess volume worries potato growers

03/05/2010 03:24:17 PM
Jim Offner

Crop prospects

There’s nothing wrong with the quality of the crop, said Dick Okray, co-owner of Okray Family Farms Inc., Plover, Wis.

“Six months ago, we were worried the crop would be somewhat unmanageable and difficult to get through because of the sheer volume and also the size profile. There were a lot of large potatoes,” he said.

“We were going to try to engage retailers to do more promotions on large sizes and a value proposition of potatoes in general,” Okray said.

And, he said, he has seen results.

“What has happened since then is exactly what we had hoped for,” he said. “I think the lower retail price point is helping to move this crop in an orderly manner in the market. Everybody, aside from the grower, the retailer is still doing well with promotions.”

The down side, Okray said, is that growers likely are struggling to break even.

Colorado felt the crush of too many spuds, as well, said Jim Ehrlich, executive director of the Monte Vista-based Colorado Potato Administrative Committee.

“Colorado has too much supply, although our shipments to date have been pretty good and we’re doing a good job of managing what we have,” he said.

“Acreage was down by 1,000, but we still had too many potatoes.”

Growers likely will scale back production, he said.

Canadian growers are feeling the pressure, as well, even though production there in the last year was down by about 2%, said Greg Donald, general manager of the Charlottetown-based Prince Edward Island Potato Board.

“The fact is we’re in the North American, in fact, global, marketplace. I think it’s probably better to look at it from that perspective,” he said.

“Whether it’s a certain region in Canada or in the U.S., it has an impact on all the market we compete in.”


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