Russet markets will likely hold steady into July, but possible delays in new-crop harvests could tighten them later in the summer.
Russet plantings ran about a week behind schedule for Bushmans’ Inc., Rosholt, Wis., with most fields planted by May 14, said Bob Dobbe, salesman.
Red plantings in Wisconsin were running slightly later as growers waited for fields to dry, Dobbe said.
Russet supplies from 2010-11 will likely wind down in July, Dobbe said.
“The end of July and beginning of August could be really interesting,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll see many russets from Wisconsin before Aug. 15,” Dobbe said.
Between mid-May and then, though, markets would likely remain fairly stable, Dobbe said.
“My best guess is you won’t see any dramatic changes in any direction,” he said. “We’ve reached a level now where everybody’s comfortable with the pace (at which potatoes are being shipped).”
On May 17, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $18-19 for 50-pound cartons of Wisconsin russets 40-70s, up from $9-10 last year at the same time.
Idaho russets were slightly cheaper, fetching $16-18, up from $11-11.50 last year at the same time.
Growers in Wisconsin and other states have done a good job, Dobbe said, of stretching out the 2010-11 crop.
“If we’d gone at the pace we normally go, we would have been out a long time ago,” he said. “We’ll ship into July, but at nowhere near the levels our customers or we would like.”
About 8.6 million pounds of Wisconsin potatoes were shipped the week ending May 15, down from 13.5 million last year at the same time, according to the USDA.
About 49.5 million pounds of Idaho potatoes shipped that week, down from 59.3 million.
Looking ahead to the 2011-12 season, Idaho harvests could be delayed if planting weather doesn’t improve, said Jayme Higham, vice president of business development and foodservice for Potandon Produce LLC, Idaho Falls.
“We’ve had a cool, wet spring,” Higham said. “Not ideal conditions for getting the crop planted.”
While the mid-May forecast was “not where it needs to be,” Higham was cautiously optimistic that warmer, dryer weather was on the way.
“It looks like things will slowly improve,” he said. “There’s still time to make up ground.”
Meanwhile, 2010-11 Idaho stocks were still running short in mid-May, though Higham said it was unclear which directions markets were headed in as summer approaches.
Plantings also are running behind in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota.
Through May 8, just 2% of North Dakota’s potatoes had been planted, down from 55% last year at the same time and under the 29% five-year average, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
It’s the latest North Dakota has been since 1979, according to the USDA.
But Ted Kreis, marketing director of the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, East Grand Forks, Minn., said the USDA numbers are off because a number of the region’s larger growers don’t report.
Kreis painted a more optimistic picture headed into next season.
“The past week has been good for planting,” he said May 17. “We’ve planted as late as June.”