Retailers could find shipments of fresh potatoes to their stores up to a week earlier than usual.
Larry Sieg, Washington sales and general manager for Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Potandon Produce LLC, said the season is running about five or seven days ahead of normal.
“The weather has been just about ideal,” he said.
Chris Voigt, executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission, Moses Lake, agreed conditions have been favorable.
“The consistent weather we have experienced so far should produce outstanding quality. Big swings in temperatures can cause quality problems, and we have not seen any of that this year,” he said.
This could put the bulk of the deal starting around the first week of July, a similar time frame as last year.
However, some growers have already started to harvest as of June 25, he said.
“Some of our growers have started harvesting our small baby baker potatoes and will begin harvesting the first russet type potatoes next week for the processing market,” Voigt said.
Oregon also is expecting an early potato harvest.
“I’d say we’re probably about a week ahead as far as potato growth, because of the weather,” said Dan Chin, president of Wong Potatoes Inc., Klamath Falls, Ore.
The early harvest should fit the potato demand perfectly, some say.
“The pipeline of potatoes is running low, so an early harvest should be good for our growers as well as our customers,” Voigt said.
Sieg said he also expects a strong market when the new crop is ready because there shouldn’t be much overlap between the storage crop and the new harvest.
“In Idaho right now, it’s looking like they have too many, where here the storage crop is not excessive. Most everybody is rationing inventory to extend the season to crop time,” Sieg said.
The harvest from Oregon could be on the small side this year because acreage is down slightly.
“The overall planted acres were down because of water issues, but it remains to be seen how it will affect the overall supply,” Chin said.
Bill Brewer, executive director of the Portland-based Oregon Potato Commission, reported a decline of only about 700 acres but said water concerns will likely affect more than acres planted.
“Water availability is a concern in both Malheur County and the Klamath Basin to have a full season. Yields could be affected, but it won’t be known until the irrigation season is completed,” Brewer said.
According to a June 30 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Oregon is down about 1,000 acres from last year, to 39,000 acres.
However, Washington potato acreage is up from 62,500 to 67,000.
Washington hasn’t been as affected by water concerns, said Steve Long, sales manager of Jones Produce Inc., Quincy, Wash., which is part of Progressive Marketing Group, Los Angeles.
“We have been pretty fortunate in that the water hasn’t been as big of an issue here. We had very good snowfall in the mountains, and it just hasn’t been a major factor for us,” Long said.
Voigt said he is excited about this year’s harvest.
“The crop is one to two weeks ahead of schedule and should produce good yields and great quality,” he said.
Right now, growers are doing test digs to determine the ideal size profile for Washington’s potatoes.
“Once they see the size they are looking for, they’ll turn off the water and start to desiccate the crop to lock in the perfect size profile,” Voigt said. “We’ll have to watch our size closely in order that our spuds don’t get too big.”