Reduced acreage, smaller sizes stoke higher prices

10/13/2010 03:33:07 PM
Tom Karst

The only negative was that marketers took less-than-ideal prices for what was a good crop of potatoes, Searle said.
The market did eventually kick higher in June and July, but that benefitted a relatively small number of growers because it came so late in the season.

On Sept. 28, the f.o.b. for 60-count 50-pound cartons of russet norkotahs was $17.50-18, up from just $6-6.50 on the same date a year ago and up from $13-15 per carton the same week two years ago.

Meanwhile, 90-count 50-pound cartons were priced at $10-11, up from $6-6.50 last year but off from $13-13.50 two years ago.

The cutback in acreage and the size profile of the crop points to a fairly good price season, said Scott Phillips, vice president of sales and marketing for Nonpareil Corp., Blackfoot, Idaho, Foodservice operators were nervous about long term pricing in September, as growers-shippers were still determining the size availability.

Jim McBride, sales manager for Mart Produce, Rupert, said size 40-60 count cartons will receive premium prices this year.

Price increase

Smaller carton size and bag potatoes will have less strength, though McBride said lower yields may push those prices up as well.

While some retailers like to buy 60 counts for bulk display at supermarkets, McBride said the quantity of that size
will be off this year.

“They may have to downsize potato size for display, because (60s) may not be available,” he said.

More 3-pound, 5-pound and 10-pound consumer bags will be shipped from Idaho this year, he said.

If growers sense there is a shortage developing, they will be a reluctant sellers, Garnand said.

Ralph Schwartz, director of value added marketing for Potandon Produce L.L.C., Idaho Falls., said the market prices should be higher this year.

However, he said that if retailers are keen to promote potatoes, it could cause the industry to concede on f.o.b. prices early in the season to move more volume.

If Idaho shippers “blow and go” with promotions now, it could create a shortfall of supply and sharply higher prices by next summer, he said.


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