Strong market greets Washington, Oregon potatoes - The Packer

Strong market greets Washington, Oregon potatoes

07/12/2013 02:11:00 PM
Mike Hornick

With storage volumes running out, potato grower-shippers in Washington and Oregon will start the new crop in a much stronger market than 2012 — especially on reds and yellows.

Fifty-pound cartons of round reds shipped f.o.b. for $24-26 on July 1 out of Kern County, Calif., compared to $8-9 a year ago. Yellows were about $22 for size A, up from $12, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Production of reds and yellows in Washington and Oregon was expected to start small soon after the Fourth of July and hit its stride around July 22. Russets are due to come online between July 22 and Aug. 1.

Last year’s oversupply situation is long gone, said Les Alderete, director of production and grower development for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos.

“You’ve got to love produce because it’s just the opposite now,” Alderete said June 27.

“We didn’t have old crop out of North Dakota or Wisconsin lingering around, so everyone pulled it from Florida or California. Florida had some weather problems and both states cut their acres back. Yields and size were also down. At $24 you’ve got plenty of customers who will take everything now. Demand way over-strips what’s available for reds and yellows.”

L&M Cos. has 125 acres of reds and yellows — mostly reds — in Washington that will finish up around the second week of August. Alderete expects average sizing and yield.

“A month ago we thought we’d have a lot more size B than A,” he said. “But there was good weather and they bulked up really nice.”

Russets are affected as well, said Larry Sieg, Washington sales and general manager for Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Potandon Produce LLC.

“Supplies are going to be critically low for the next four or five weeks,” he said June 27.

“That should get alleviated toward the second week of August. Supply is all over with russets on the old crop. Whether it’s here, Idaho or California, there will be gaps between the storage crop and the new crop. It will vary by shipper. The heat in Bakersfield could burn up some of their crop.”

Contributing factors were subnormal packout and more shrinkage and culling than usual, Sieg said.

Shane Marston, salesman for Quincy, Wash.-based Jones Produce Inc., said supplies are tight. But he didn’t expect much of a gap.

“This year we had way too many potatoes everywhere,” Marston said. “But we’re finding out there were problems with storages in Idaho and Washington. It seems like packouts have been off since early spring. Throw in that a lot of packers went to cattle or elsewhere with the product and it has really tightened the crop.”

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