November 4 – Market Alert – Potato Shortage Continues

Market Alert – Potato Shortage Continues

As we Approach the 2019-2020 storage potato season, we are now seeing the effects of the challenges we faced along the way. Extremely cold weather and storm systems have and will continue to put a strain on the Idaho potato industry as a whole for the upcoming year. The full extent of the crop failure in Idaho is still unknown. Some fields were a total loss, while other fields were harvested, but much of that product will never make it to the fresh market due to quality. As an industry, Idaho potato growers are expecting a substantial loss of yields and diminished quality moving forward. In an effort to help extend the limited Idaho potato storage crop, suppliers have cut back shipments by 25% across the board to avoid a gap in supplies late spring/early summer. Unfortunately, due to weather-related events beyond our control, we must mitigate the issue now to prevent an even larger problem by spring. All new potato contracts out of all growing areas have been put on hold till further notice. Below are some details on the 2 major weather events that resulted in this shortage. Please review and let me know if you have any questions.

Frost in June

During the growing season, Idaho was met with unseasonably cool and wet weather back in June. Widespread frost hit early June followed by hail and another heavy frost mid-June. These events lead to plants shutting down limiting the number of nutrients during a crucial time in the growth stage. Plants responded with lower overall yields and smaller size profile. As the growing season proceeded, Idaho was pushing for late harvest to allow the tubers to size up and provide a full range for the storage season.

Winter Storm in October

Idaho was met with yet another unfortunate weather event October 10th -12th that brought rain, snow and freezing temperatures bringing harvests to a standstill. Plans to harvest later than normal to size up the potatoes quickly changed to round the clock harvesting before and after the storm. Results will lead to smaller size profile (in particular the Burbank Crop) along with yields reduced even further from overall crop loss. Daily production of potatoes will be down as many shippers have restricted packing to 4 days per week in order to extend the storage season to July without interruptions in the supply chain. Winter storms have also swept through the Wisconsin region with heavy amounts of rain and snow. That region will also be limited in supply.

Summary

Many of the industry’s long term and well-respected suppliers are in agreement that the crop losses are substantial. In the short term, suppliers have decided to reduce the number and volume of their shipments in an effort to conserve supplies for the spring and summer of 2020. Because potatoes are such an integral part of our diets and on nearly every menu, we are expecting major shortages and a situation where supplies cannot keep up with demand. As we move forward with the challenges before us, flexibility will be needed with potato sizing and the State of origin. Besides Idaho, there are other areas that also produce an excellent russet potato. Those states include Washington State, Oregon, California, Wisconsin, and Colorado. Please stay in contact with us for further developments and to discuss alternative products.