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Less availability ahead for Idaho spuds

Idaho potato supplies are looking slimmer for the 2017 season.

“Supplies right now are adequate. We’re in the beginning stages of our harvest so they’re being shipped and packaged right out of the field,” says Kent Sutton at Rexburg, Id.-based Bench Mark Potato Co. Inc. “But overall availability as the season goes on, there’s probably a 10 percent reduction in acreage. From what we’ve seen so far, there’s at least a 10 percent in yield per acreage. Altogether we’re looking at having a significantly smaller crop than last year.”

The reduction comes intentionally thanks to the economics behind Idaho potatoes. “Last year and the previous year we had extremely low prices for potatoes,” says Sutton. “They’re such a large cost to raise potatoes. Farmers weren’t willing to take losses for a third year in a row so they cut their acreage back. The reduction is compared to last year.”

The rain factor
On top of that, at least two rain delays have slowed thing down and could cause potential loss as well. “We began harvest at the usual time but the delays held us up,” he says. “So we’re probably right now a bit behind schedule. A lot of farmers in this area have probably only 20 per cent of their crop harvested. There’s a long way to go. And the potatoes may be slightly smaller. We may have some losses due to the weather because it’s more difficult to dig in the low lying areas due to the rain.” That said, Sutton notes the potatoes look good—blocky and elongated without a lot of extra knobs. “The size and quality look good so it’s just a matter of getting them harvested in good shape and getting them into storage,” he says.

Prices are up

Of course, the reduction will likely take its toll on pricing given that supply and demand are much more even right now. “Pricing is probably up 20 per cent over this time last year—of course last year we had extremely low and depressed prices,” he says. “And farmers may also be more bullish expecting a little more money because at the tail end of the last shipping season, supplies ran short and prices ran through the roof in June and July.”

Looking ahead, it’s a sprint now to harvest what the crop. “We’ll see if it gets harvested in good shape or if there are potatoes that get left in the field,” says Sutton.   

For more information:
Kent Sutton
Bench Mark Potato
Tel: +1-208-356-7321

Publication date: 10/4/2017
Author: Astrid van den Broek
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


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