Weather cuts potato acreage, production dips 6%
Growers have fewer potatoes to sell compared with a year ago but they are getting more money for what they do have.
U.S. production of potatoes is down 6% this year, according to the first forecast of the season from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Total production for 2019 is forecast at 422 million cwt., down 6% from 2018, according to the USDA.
The harvested acreage for 2019 is estimated at 938,900 acres, down 7% from 1.01 million acres last year.
The yield forecast, at 450 cwt. per acre, is up 7 cwt. compared with the 2018 crop.
The USDA said that growers in Idaho reported crop losses due to freezing temperatures in late September and early October, with several growers leaving potatoes in the ground to avoid the cost of harvest.
Washington growers, according to the agency, reported some quality concerns because of “soilborne issues and freeze damage at the end of the harvest season.”
Prolonged wet conditions in late September and early October hampered harvest in the Red River Valley in North Dakota.
The potato estimate put harvested acreage in North Dakota at 59,000 acres, down 19% compared with last year. Total output in North Dakota was 20.9 million cwt. down 12% compared with 2018.
The Idaho potato crop is estimated at 133.9 million cwt., off about 6% from 141.8 million cwt. a year ago.
Effect on prices
In the agency’s Market News reports, prices for potatoes in mid-November were running well above year-ago levels.
The Idaho russet burbank price for 60-count 50-pound cartons was reported at $16-19, up from $8-9 per carton the same time a year ago.
In the Red River Valley of Minnesota and North Dakota, the USDA reported 50-pound cartons of size B round red potatoes were $23 to $25 on Nov. 13, up from $14 to $15 per carton the same time a year go.
Movement of potatoes reflected reduced output.
Total shipments of U.S. potatoes the week of Nov. 3-9 totaled 3.67 million 50-pound carton, down 23% from 4.74 million 50-pound cartons a year ago.
In addition, the USDA reported retail promotions of potatoes showed declines in the number of supermarket ads and an increase in average promoted prices.
For Nov. 8, the USDA reported round red potatoes were promoted by 299 retail stores, down from 1,034 stores promoting the same time a year ago. The average promoted price per pound for round red potatoes was 94 cents, up from 77 cents per pound a year ago.
The number of supermarket promotions for 10-pound bags or russet burbank potatoes totaled 1,322 on Nov. 8, down 22% compared with 1,693 stores a year ago. The average promoted price for 10-pound bags of russet potatoes was reported at $2.91 on Nov. 8, up 7% from $2.72 a year ago.