Supplies of potatoes out of Idaho are solid.
“The yields were good. It wasn’t necessarily a bumper crop but it was average yields,” says Ryan Wahlen of Pleasant Valley Potato in Aberdeen, ID. “The warm weather throughout harvest led to a really nice quality potato. If it’s too cold, some Russet Burbanks get “shatter bruise” where they literally break on impact when they go into the truck. That impacted the quality last year significantly because the harvest season was so cold. But this year it was pretty nice.”
This year’s harvest started slightly earlier than the usual mid-August start time and finished up the first week in October.
What will happen with demand?
As for demand on potatoes, it’s strong right now. “Retail is strong and has been throughout the pandemic,” says Wahlen. However, foodservice demand is a bit more 'wait and see'. “Speaking with a lot of distributors and wholesalers, they’re very concerned about what the election might mean for their business and in turn, that affects our business,” he says, noting that currently demand for foodservice supplies are approximately 2/3 of where they were last year at this time. He adds that if future widespread lockdowns are in store, there could be significant repercussions. “If the lockdowns continue to be lifted and business goes back to what we had before, we could see a really great season. If the lockdowns return, it could be disastrous for our industry,” says Wahlen.
Meanwhile pricing on potatoes is currently in line with historical average pricing. “Consumer pricing and retail packs are probably a little bit higher than normal and I think that has a lot to do with the food box program. As we head into November and the Thanksgiving push begins, we’re starting to see a little bit of that now. That’ll strengthen the consumer pack market further,” he says.