Floods in north Florida, smaller-than-expected yields in California and heat stress in Arizona have spurred a brisk business for packing sheds that still have potatoes in Minnesota and North Dakota
Four sheds in the Red River Valley are still shipping potatoes—Associated Potato Growers, Ryan Potato, JG Hall and Sons, and Folson Farms, according to Ted Kreis, marketing director for the East Grand Forks, Minn.-based Northern Plains Potato Growers Association. They will continue shipping through this month.
With other Red River Valley sheds having already closed and the tight supply of new-crop potatoes elsewhere, prices are typically running about $14 per hundredweight for size A reds in totes, Kreis says. Fifty-pound bags of B-grade reds are averaging $10.
That compares with the average price of $8.70 cwt that North Dakota growers received in 2007 for fresh-market potatoes, the last year for which figures are available, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
As much as 27 inches of rain fell during a four-day period just before Memorial Day weekend in north Florida.
Harvest in north Florida typically runs from mid-May through mid-June. Only about 35 percent to 40 percent of the crop was harvested before the rain.
Some industry experts say about 70 percent of the crop may be lost.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has pegged the damage as high as $50 million.
As a result of the rains, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist declared a state of emergency in 11 counties.
The are Brevard, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Lake, Nassau, Orange, Putnam, Seminole, St. Johns and Volusia.
The declaration also meant that weight restrictions for trucks were temporarily dropped, enabling growers to move more potatoes to the processors and packers before they spoiled un the field.
“Potatoes, the primary crop in the area, are in peak harvest season," state agriculture secretary Charles Bronson said in a release. "More than two-thirds of the 18,000-acre crop is still in flooded fields and must be harvested quickly before further damage occurs.”