Drought makes digging tough in Red River Valley

10/19/2012 01:57:00 PM
Jim Offner

“We’ve got stuff that we won’t let the grower dig even if he wants to,” Boushey said.

One of Boushey’s growers, George Cariveau, has been using digger chains normally reserved for mud in an effort to “shed loose dirt” during harvest, Boushey said.

“The chain has a cavity with links wide enough apart that I can slip my hand between them, and in return, he’s leaving the real estate (dirt) in the fields but also some Cs and Bs,” he said.

Some growers halted digging for a time and were “praying for rain” to give the potato quality a boost, Boushey said.

Growers say the crop they have been able to harvest has the quality they want, and when the deal is done it likely will be at normal volume.

“Yields are better than expected. It’s a pretty fair crop, actually,” said Cory Seim, a salesman with Hoople, N.D.-based Northern Valley Growers.

Prices could be higher

Most growers, on the other hand, say prices are less than ideal.

“The market’s is a whole lot lower than we’d like to see it, but it is what it is,” said Keith Groven, a salesman with Black Gold Farms, Grand Forks, N.D.

As of Oct. 1, tote bags of about 2,000 pounds of U.S. No. 1, size-A round reds from the Red River Valley were priced at $9-10.

A year earlier, the same product was priced at $22-23 — a result of shorter supplies because of too much rain, according Dave Moquist, a partner in and sales manager of O.C. Schulz & Sons Inc., Crystal, N.D.

“We had such a horrible year last year, anything would be better than that,” Moquist said.

The strong market of last year began to slide toward the end of the crop, around February, Groven said.

“It’s been a fairly continuous decrease in price since then,” he said.

The reason? Too many potatoes, he said.

“There’s going to be more potatoes not only in the Red River Valley but Idaho than there has in years past,” he said.

Kreis described the market as terrible in late September.

“The prices for reds are better than for russets and, thankfully, 98% of our fresh crop is reds, but prices could be better,” he said.

An ideal return would be closer to $14-18, Seim said.

“It’s common ground that everybody is making some money in the process and the consumer still has a good buy,” he said.

All in all, though, Boushey said he isn’t too worried.



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