Weather slows potato harvest

09/14/2011 09:49:00 AM
Tara Schupner

Colorado growers expect a good harvest, with good quality potatoes, but slightly lower yields, said Dave Yeager, vice president of new business development, Farm Fresh Direct of America, Monte Vista.

Slow sales, high prices

McCormick said early San Luis season sales were slow, perhaps because so much of the U.S. was experiencing extremely hot weather.

“Nobody wants to cook when it’s 90 degrees-plus everywhere,” he said. “It’s easier to do fast food.”

Ehrlich said potato demand has been steady over the years, and he expects it to remain so this year, though demand could fall a bit if prices are high.

“They were very high last year,” he said. “If they are too high, it’ll affect demand.”

In late August, prices were higher than they were a year earlier. On Aug. 30, 50-pound cartons of U.S. No. 1 Idaho-grown Burbank russet potatoes sized 50, 60 or 70 were priced at $29 at the Los Angeles terminal market, the USDA reported.

A year earlier, similar cartons were priced at $16-18.

Tonso said he expected prices to drop to a “more realistic level” and stabilize within the first half of September.

“Prices are coming down,” Tonso said. “There’s been a gradual decline in pricing, but we’re coming off a summer with extremely tight supplies.”

Tonso said demand in late August was strong for the potatoes his company was shipping from northern Colorado, and he expected it to remain strong.

Potatoes remain a good value in the produce department, which helps the industry keep demand strong, Ehrlich said.

With U.S. consumers already using about 130 pounds of fresh and processed potatoes each year, there’s not a whole lot of room to grow demand, he said.


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