Today's Pricing

WATERMELON — F.O.B.S AS OF JULY 14

GEORGIA — Shipments (1,458-1,263-1,057, red-flesh seeded 122-80-63; red-flesh seedless 1,336-1,183-994) — Movement expected to decrease. Trading red-flesh seeded 35s and red-flesh seedless 60s moderate, others very slow. Prices red-flesh seed 35s and red-flesh seedless 60s slightly higher, others lower. 24-inch bins per pounds red-flesh seeded-type 35s 12-13 cents; red-flesh seedless-type 36s mostly 11 cents, 45s mostly 12 cents, 60s 13-14 cents. Quality generally good.

SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY, CALIF. — Shipments (314-303-384, seedless 294-278-352, seeded 20-25-32) — Movement expected about the same. Trading seedless 35 count fairly active at slightly lower prices, others fairly active. Prices seedless 35 count slightly lower, seedless 45 count generally unchanged, others slightly higher. 24-inch bins per pound red-flesh seedless-type approximately 35 count mostly 18 cents, approximately 45 count mostly 19-20 cents, approximately 60 count 17-18 cents; red-flesh seeded-type approximately 35 and 45 counts 12-14 cents. Quality generally good.

TEXAS — Shipments (500-349-182, seedless 480-333-171, seeded 20-16-11) — Movement expected to decrease slightly. Trading early slow, late moderate. Prices 45 count lower, others higher. 24-inch bins per pound red-flesh seedless-type approximately 35 and 45 count mostly 15-16 cents, approximately 60 count mostly 14 cents. Quality variable.

SOUTH CAROLINA — Shipments (171-140*-125, red-flesh seeded 21-18-6; red-flesh seedless 150-122*-119) — Movement expected to remain about the same. Trading seeded 35s and seedless 60s moderate, other seedless slow. Prices slightly lower. 24-inch bins per pound red-flesh seeded 35s mostly 13 cents; red-flesh seedless 36s and 45s mostly 11-12 cents, 60s 13-14 cents. Quality generally good.

IMPERIAL AND COACHELLA VALLEYS, CALIF., AND CENTRAL AND WESTERN ARIZONA — Shipments (seedless AZ 224-207-103, CA 19-0-0) — Movement expected to decrease sharply as most shippers are finished for season. Supplies insufficient to establish a market. Quality generally good. Lighter shipments were expected to continue through July 19. LAST REPORT.

MISSOURI — Shipments (0-8-64, red-flesh seeded 0-2-6; red-flesh seedless 0-58-*) — Movement expected to increase. Trading moderate. 24-inch bins per pound red-flesh seedless-type 36s 14 cents, 45s 15 cents and 60s 15-16 cents. Quality generally good. *unavailable

NORTH CAROLINA — Shipments (1-16-37, red-flesh seeded 1-6-5; red-flesh seedless 0-10-32) — Movement expected to increase as more shippers begin the season. Sufficient volume and number of shippers for first f.o.b. report were expected the week of July 14.

SOUTHWEST INDIANA AND SOUTHEAST ILLINOIS — Shipments (0-0-8, red-flesh seeded 0-0-0; red-flesh seedless 0-0-8) — Very light harvest has begun. Expect sufficient volume for first f.o.b. by late July.

DELAWARE, MARYLAND, EASTERN SHORE, VA. — Light harvest was expected to begin by the week of July 21 with sufficient volume and number of shippers for first f.o.b. report by the week of July 21.



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Kern County Produce

Thin-skinned, fingerlings hit profit sweet spot in Kern County

Lehr Bros. spring potatoes in Kern CountyCourtesy Lehr Bros. Inc.Employees of Lehr Bros. Inc., Edison, Calif., sort and inspect potatoes harvested April 22 in Kern County. These potatoes were destined for specialty consumer packs in Canada. Potato growers in Kern County, Calif., are optimistic about the 2013 harvest, though it may be delayed as much as two weeks from normal for some of them because of unusually cool weather in recent weeks.

The growers are thankful the county did not have the extreme cold that hit nearby desert areas, where yields for thin-skinned and specialty varieties are down. Russet volumes are also down, but that’s because growers planted fewer this season.

“No one anticipated good yields from the desert this year,” said Brett Dixon, president of Top Brass Marketing, Shafter, Calif. “So I don’t think we will have the oversupply that we did last year.”

Dixon said the harvest schedule is progressing through California as anticipated, with crews working the El Centro area the last 10 days of April. He said he expects his Kern County harvest to begin about May 6.

Muke Kundert, president Kundert Bros. FarmsCourtesy Kundert Bros. FarmsMike Kundert, president of Kundert Bros. Farms Inc., Edicon, Calif., checks the status of his fingerling potatoes. The fields where Kundert Bros. Farms Inc., Edison, Calif., grows all colors of fingerlings are running a bit earlier, said office manager Nicole Vergano. She said company president Mike Kundert said he expects to begin harvesting at the end of April.

The microclimates in California’s growing regions can change in a few days time, said Pete Belluomini, vice president of farming for Lehr Bros. Inc., Edison. The company was already harvesting specialty potatoes April 22.

“We’re actually in much better shape than we thought about two weeks ago,” Belluomini said.

“The quality looks good and we were able to make up some time in the past two weeks to offset cooler temperatures earlier. But we are still having cool mornings for this late in spring.”

Prices

Belluomini echoed Dixon’s comments about the low volumes coming out of the Imperial Valley. He described the frosts in the valley earlier this year as devastating. Belluomini said frost in Florida’s potato regions is further decreasing overall volumes.

The low volumes in other regions mean prices should be stable and strong for Kern County potatoes, Belluomini said.

Dixon and Vergano also said they expect stable and strong prices for the nonrusset varieties coming out of Kern County this season.

Russets losing ground

Increasing plantings of russets in other regions of the country have created an overall surplus, raising concerns about pricing and encouraging Kern County growers to whittle their plantings of the big, thick-skinned potatoes.

Top Brass potatoes from Kern CountyCourtesy Top Brass MarketingTop Brass Marketing hasn't planted conventional russets for several years in Kern County because excess storage potatoes have made other varieties more profitable. The company re-entered the fingerling deal this year because of the growing popularity of the small spuds. Russets plantings are down in Kern County from 65% to 75%, depending on who you ask. Joe Nunez, farm adviser for the University of California-Davis Kern County Extension Office, confirmed the decrease is because the russet market is so bad.

“Very few russet potatoes were planted, but the reds, whites and yellows are at normal levels,” Nunez said.

Belluomini described the russet plantings in Kern County as “almost nil” this season. He said the county probably only has about 25% of the russets compared to a normal year.

“It’s because of the amount in storage,” Belluomini said.

“We’ve been relegated pretty much to the specialty varieties in this region. We are being asked more and more for the smaller sizes — they used to be a byproduct, and now we are selling them and looking for varieties that grow smaller potatoes because demand is so high.”

Other growers confirmed the trend in Kern County is toward smaller and specialty potatoes.

Top Brass Marketing, for example, is back in the fingerling deal this season after sitting out for a year. Company president Dixon said Top Brass did fingerlings for about six years but they didn’t feel they had the correct varieties. Research during the 2012 season led them to a couple of different varieties that Dixon said are expected to sell well this season.

Top Brass hasn’t planted conventional russets for more than a decade, said Dixon. The company does have organic russets in Kern County, but Dixon said he had heard the conventional russet plantings for 2013 are down about 65%.

Kundert Bros. specializes in fingerlings only, focusing on the big profits that the small potatoes provide, said Vergano.

“The banana fingerlings are still the most popular,” she said. “The other colors switch around as far as demand goes, but they all sell well.”


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