In 2020, there was a staggering surplus of potatoes for Washington potato growers. This year, to help reverse the chaos left by the trade wars and Covid-19 pandemic, the same growers are banking on a revival of the food service industry, including in-person dining, improved shipping conditions and a just-opened Mexican market.
Of course, the pandemic brought restaurant dining to a standstill starting in Asia in January 2020, leading processors to cancel orders for Mid-Columbia spuds.
The Washington Potato Commission predicted growers and potato sheds would be forced to throw away a billion pounds that would not be used – one-tenth of Washington’s annual potato crop.
Potatoes are Washington’s third largest crop with a pre-pandemic value of $934 million, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture. About 90% is processed into frozen french fries and other products, and 70% is exported, chiefly in the form of frozen french fries.