National potato supplies represent a challenge - The Packer

National potato supplies represent a challenge

09/07/2012 10:59:00 AM
Andy Nelson

A good talking-to by his 92-year old grandfather, a former grower who was recovering from heart surgery, set Ellithorpe straight.

“I was explaining the markets to him, and I was somewhat pessimistic and he said, ‘You’re planning on it being that bad. It sounds like you need a different plan.’ The canary in the coal mine doesn’t bode well for markets, but a lot can happen.”

One advantage of having a big crop nationwide could be that shippers will be forced to sharpen their marketing skills, Ellithorpe said.

“If we have supplies, maybe we’ll do a better job of marketing and turn the demand side around,” he said. “We can’t do that unless we have the supplies to back it up.”

Nebraska and eastern Colorado were in production in August, adding to the San Luis Valley storage spuds already in the pipeline, of which there were more of than usual this year, but Bob
Noffsinger, a salesman for Center-based Skyline Potato Co., said he still expected a smooth transition from old to new crop this season.

That said, Skyline, like other valley grower-shippers, is taking a wait-and-see attitude toward 2012-13 demand.

“We know Idaho and Washington are up. We won’t know about the size until they get in,” he said. “It remains to be seen how big it is.”

Some valley growers began harvesting earlier than usual this season, but the Monte Vista Potato Grower Co-op Association, Monte Vista, still planned to open its shed at about the usual time, around Oct. 1, said Steve Tillman, manager.

With acreage up nationwide, Tillman said he can wait.

“I’m not in too big of a hurry to get into it — the market’s not strong enough,” he said.

Great promotional opportunities

Randy Shell, vice president of marketing and new business development for Bancroft, Wis.-based RPE Inc., said the big 2012-13 crop presents marketers with great opportunities to get consumers to eat more spuds.

“Supplies look to be plentiful for the season, with great supplies for promotions,” he said. “This will be a great year for retailers to promote russet potatoes in 10-pound and larger bags at very good prices. Overall, this should be a great year to increase potato consumption.”

In August, RPE inked a deal with Lynn McCullough and Jeffery McCullough, who own Monte Vista-based Spud Seller Inc., Spud Grower Farms LLC and Lynn McCullough Farms LLC.

The deal makes RPE the exclusive marketer for Spud Seller and Spud Grower Farms.

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