Challenging conditions remain for Washington potato growers

Despite hopes that the end of the pandemic is finally in sight, a host of challenges remain before the Washington potato industry. According to Chris Voigt, Executive Director for the Washington state Potato Commission, one of the biggest challenges is not in the field, but after the spuds are pulled during harvest. He claims that several Washington growers were offered a pricing contract this year that was roughly 3%-3.5% smaller than a typical year. quoted him as saying: “That’s tough for our growers.  We’ve had a very difficult year financially due to the pandemic, and then faced with lower contract prices and potentially volumes, we don’t know where the volumes are, they’re kind of a little all over the board.  Some folks will have increases, some folks will have decreases, do it’s a little unsettled.”

Voigt says those pricing issues really vary on variety as well as delivery dates. But while challenges remain before potato growers, Voigt did say there is reason for optimism, and not just the optimism every farmer needs to have to start a new growing season.

“Some of our export markets are rebounding and we’re starting to see growth there.  The vaccine is rolling out.  We’re starting to see domestic sales start to come back.  Those are some good things that will be a big plus for our industry, not only for our frozen growers but then also for our fresh growers too.”

Voigt says local growers will also watch the Supreme Court in Mexico as it decides if fresh U.S. potatoes should be sold south of the border.

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