( Courtesy Washington State Potato Commission )

Total losses from the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on the Washington State’s potato industry is estimated to top $1 billion, according to a study by Washington State University.

The Washington State Potato Commission requested the study, conducted by the university’s IMPACT Center of the School of Economic Sciences, according to a news release from the commission.

The pandemic has disrupted the supply chain, particularly in the foodservice sector, where French fries made from frozen potatoes and russets grown for restaurants for baked potatoes went unsold.

The study also looks at potential losses of state taxes by unsold product and links in the supply chain affected by the drop in production and processing.

“We found this report to be very beneficial to quantify the economic damage from COVID-19 to the state’s potato economy,” Matt Harris, director of governmental affairs for the potato commission, said in the release. “It provides key statistics that show just how important potatoes are to our state’s economy and that the value they bring goes far beyond each individual farm.”

Farmers have lost about $29.2 million from the drop in demand and quality of the 2019 harvest, according to the release. Acreage for the 2020 fall harvest dropped 13%, which represents a drop of more than 729,000 tons of potatoes, according to the commission.

The net effects from the acreage drop resulted in $270.4 million lost productivity, according to the release, and potato processors have suffered $714 million in lost productivity as well.
Related stories:

Potato growers ponder COVID-19 pandemic’s fallout

Produce boxes and new ways to connect; industry responds in pandemic