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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Red River Valley Potatoes

Drought makes digging tough in Red River Valley

The potato harvest continues in the Red River Valley, despite some of driest conditions Randy Boushey has seen in his career.

The National Weather Service reported in early October the region containing Grand Forks, N.D., and East Grand Forks, Minn. — the center of the potato industry in the Red River Valley — is dealing with “extreme drought” conditions.

Boushey, president and chief executive officer of A&L Potato Co., East Grand Forks, said the drought is as bad as any he has experienced in the potato business.

“And, I’ve been doing this for over 30 years,” he said.

Growers across the valley have been harvesting spuds since early September, which is normal, according to the East Grand Forks-based Great Plains Potato Growers Association, which has a membership of 250 growers representing 80,000 acres in North Dakota and 47,000 in Minnesota.

Rock-hard dirt clods

Digging is not easy to do in dry soil that clings to the potatoes in rock-hard clumps, growers say.

“Can’t carry any dirt on the harvester, and you have dirt clumps that bruise the potatoes,” said Paul Dolan, general manager of Associated Potato Growers Inc., Grand Forks.

That’s the situation growers have been dealing with for months, even though occasional, widely scattered showers provided relief to some growers, said Ted Kreis, the association’s marketing director.

“From the northern part of the valley to the southern part of the valley there was quite a difference in rainfall,” he said.

That wasn’t the case for most of the area, according to the weather service, which reported most areas having received little rainfall from Sept. 13 to the end of the month.

Some counties were declared agricultural disaster areas due to the drought.

The weather bureau’s station in Grand Forks reported a yearly total of 15.39 inches of rain for the year, compared to a normal of 20.09. The city got 0.88 inches of rain in September, down from the normal of 3 inches.

The only significant drenching the city got during the growing season was 2.06 inches July 13, according to the weather service.

But higher-than-normal temperatures mitigated the benefits of the moisture, said Bryan Folson, general manager of East Grand Forks-based Folson Farms Inc..

“It was so hot, the evaporation was much more than usual, too, so that hurt the situation,” he said.

The digging goes on, but growers are having to leave some product in the fields, Boushey said.

“We’ve got stuff that we won’t let the grower dig even if he wants to,” Boushey said.

One of Boushey’s growers, George Cariveau, has been using digger chains normally reserved for mud in an effort to “shed loose dirt” during harvest, Boushey said.

“The chain has a cavity with links wide enough apart that I can slip my hand between them, and in return, he’s leaving the real estate (dirt) in the fields but also some Cs and Bs,” he said.

Some growers halted digging for a time and were “praying for rain” to give the potato quality a boost, Boushey said.

Growers say the crop they have been able to harvest has the quality they want, and when the deal is done it likely will be at normal volume.

“Yields are better than expected. It’s a pretty fair crop, actually,” said Cory Seim, a salesman with Hoople, N.D.-based Northern Valley Growers.

Prices could be higher

Most growers, on the other hand, say prices are less than ideal.

“The market’s is a whole lot lower than we’d like to see it, but it is what it is,” said Keith Groven, a salesman with Black Gold Farms, Grand Forks, N.D.

As of Oct. 1, tote bags of about 2,000 pounds of U.S. No. 1, size-A round reds from the Red River Valley were priced at $9-10.

A year earlier, the same product was priced at $22-23 — a result of shorter supplies because of too much rain, according Dave Moquist, a partner in and sales manager of O.C. Schulz & Sons Inc., Crystal, N.D.

“We had such a horrible year last year, anything would be better than that,” Moquist said.

The strong market of last year began to slide toward the end of the crop, around February, Groven said.

“It’s been a fairly continuous decrease in price since then,” he said.

The reason? Too many potatoes, he said.

“There’s going to be more potatoes not only in the Red River Valley but Idaho than there has in years past,” he said.

Kreis described the market as terrible in late September.

“The prices for reds are better than for russets and, thankfully, 98% of our fresh crop is reds, but prices could be better,” he said.

An ideal return would be closer to $14-18, Seim said.

“It’s common ground that everybody is making some money in the process and the consumer still has a good buy,” he said.

All in all, though, Boushey said he isn’t too worried.

“It seems like it’s a decent crop. We really could use some rain. Other than that, we’re OK,” he said.


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