LAKE WALES, Fla. — Florida’s potato season opened with strong demand and high prices.
Growers also say a mid-February freeze had a small effect on north Florida plantings.
Mack Farms Inc. began harvesting red, gold and white potatoes on Feb. 11, a few days earlier than normal.
Chandler Mack, vice president of operations, said quality and volume were strong.
“The potatoes look very nice,” he said in late February.
“Overall, it’s not a bumper crop, but it should be a good crop. We had some issues earlier in the season when it was either too wet or too dry, but overall, the crop looks very good.”
Mack said red potatoes, the dominant Florida variety, had average prices while tight supplies created higher markets for whites and yellows.
On March 4, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that round red U.S. 1 baled 10 5-pound film bags size A potatoes from Florida sold for $14.75-15.75, 50-pound sacks size A sold for $11.75-12.75 and size B sold for $14.75-16.75.
Round white U.S. 1 potatoes in 50-pound sacks size A sold for $28.75 and size B sold for $22.75. Yellow-type U.S. 1 potatoes in 50-pound sacks size A sold for $20.75-21.75 and size B sold for $14.75-16.75.
Mack said he thinks growers planted similar acreage as last season.
Immokalee-base Lipman began harvesting on time on Feb. 18.
“Everything looks good so far out of the gate,” Kent Shoemaker, chief executive officer, said Feb. 18.
“We are on track for this season. It’s been a learning process for us but we continue to improve each year and see good prospects.”
Lipman grows and ships red, yellow and white potatoes through late April.
Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc. plans to begin its north Florida harvesting on time in early May.
Adam Lytch, operations manager, said a Feb. 17 freeze caused minimal damage to early Palatka plantings.
“Worst-case scenario, the cold may set them back a week,” Lytch said in late February.
“Quality and yield shouldn’t be affected. By setting them back a week, it will put them on a normal schedule as they were running ahead of schedule.”
Lytch said north Florida should begin production the first week of May as normal.
He said the cold could cause some yield reductions but because of their age during the freeze, quality should remain unaffected.
He said he expects south Florida to finish a little earlier than normal and said the transition from south and central Florida growing regions to north Florida usually moves well.
Last year, Lytch said growing regions slightly overlapped.
While central Florida typically begins in light volume in mid- to late February, volume usually increases for reds, whites, yellows and fingerlings in early March.
South Florida volume typically peaks in late April and early May and central Florida usually packs through mid- to late May, overlapping with north Florida production, which typically begins in late April and early May.