Mother Nature has Idaho potato industry insiders in a knock-on-wood mode as they cautiously predict that the 2013-14 crop will provide the right sizes in the right volumes to give growers, shippers, retailers, restaurateurs, and consumers the right prices.
Jim Richter, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Wilcox Fresh, Rexburg, Idaho, said the phrase “win-win situation” is overused, but it is the best description of this year’s Idaho potato crop, provided weather does not disrupt harvest.
He said the first 10% of the harvest showed good quality norkotahs despite some early concerns about a hot spell.
“We should be on schedule to begin shipping burbanks toward the end of the third week of October,” Richter said. “It looks like the peak will be in slightly smaller sizes than last year, which will be good for bags. We’ll have good sizes for foodservice, too. It’s a win for everybody this year.”
Total volume is predicted to be off about 8% to 10%, Richter said, echoing estimates officials from the Idaho Potato Commission made in late August.
“But I think the markets will be more typical this year because supply and demand will be more balanced,” Richter said.
Fewer acres planted
Reduced production is expected, with about 25,000 fewer acres compared to the 340,000 planted in 2012, said Frank Muir, president and chief executive officer for the Eagle, Idaho-based commission. However, the top potato-producing state should still be within its five-year production average.
Similar to Richter’s observation on sizing, Muir said reports from growers and shippers indicate there will not be an excess of larger potatoes this season. Consequently, the bin promotions the commission had for retailers last year likely will not be repeated for 2013.
“The bin promotions are not a pre-planned part of our marketing,” said Seth Pemsler, the commission’s vice president of retail and international programs. “They are a good tool for the Idaho potato industry to manage supply and demand, but we use them as needed.”
Mark Klompien, president of the Idaho Grower Shipper Association, Idaho Falls, said he is consistently hearing reports of a good quality crop with balanced size distribution. He said that combination has association members anticipating pricing that will give growers and shippers solid returns while providing retailers consistent supplies and reasonable prices.