Red potato movement was brisk in the first half of January, but extreme cold in Idaho is limiting russet shipments.

Sub-zero temperatures made it very difficult, sometimes impossible, to haul russets from cellars to plants without them freezing, Kevin Stanger, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Wada Farms, said Jan. 15.

“We’ve only had one good week over the last three or four,” he said. “Movement through the holidays was good, then it really died. That 10-below to 5-above (zero) kills you.”

Markets have strengthened on some items, Stanger said, but prices in general shouldn’t change significantly. And with temperatures expected to start rising late the week of Jan. 14, by the week of Jan. 21, production should return to normal, he said.

“If we get up and going, she should get all of them moved,” Stanger said. “The weather’s been a little frustrating, but other than that, demand has been good.”

On Jan. 15, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $5 for 50-pound cartons of russets 40-60s from Idaho, down from $9-10 last year at the same time.

In a Jan. 14 conference call with red potato growers in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota, Ted Kreis, marketing and communications director of the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, East Grand Forks, N.D., was pleased with what he heard.

“Business is extremely brisk, and everybody’s shipping to capacity now,” Kreis said. “Demand has been good all year.”

Despite having a much bigger crop in 2012-13, stocks as of mid-January were similar to what they were a year ago, Kreis said — a testament to the brisk movement.

“Retailers are promoting a lot more because they’re buying them cheaper, and we like to think that consumers are finding reds to be a good buy,” he said.

In a typical year, reds might be double the price of russets per pound, Kreis said. The prices are closer this year, and retailers are turning them over quickly as a result.

All of that strong demand should begin to make a dent in the market, Kreis said.

“I expect prices to creep up, and I don’t see any resistance to it.”

Most valley growers expect the deal to wind down in mid-May, a typical end, Kreis said.

On Jan. 15, the USDA reported prices of $5.50-6 for 50-pound cartons of size-A reds from the Red River Valley, down from $9.50-10 last year at the same time.