Summer potato markets are strengthening as the East Coast deal shifts from northern Florida to North Carolina.

“Red and white markets have strengthened significantly in the last two or three days,” Ken Wiles, general manager of Lake Wales, Fla.-based Mack Farms Inc., said June 7. “I talked to one grower who said he hated to be out of potatoes when they were on an uptick.”

On June 7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $10.75-11.75 for 50-pound sacks of size-A reds from Florida, comparable to last year at the same time.

As the Hastings, Fla., deals wound down in early June, Wiles predicted a supply gap between Florida and North Carolina, which was expected to begin shipping June 15-20.

Adam Lytch, operations manager for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc., said the company’s Florida deal would likely end sometime the week of June 13.

The strengthening markets would likely stay strong once production shifts to North Carolina, Lytch said. A heat wave in the Tar Heel state would likely cut into yields.

“I think potatoes will be short all the way through summer,” he said.

L&M expects to ship from North Carolina through mid- to late July.

Florida white markets were very weak earlier this spring but had strengthened sharply by deal’s end, Wiles said.

Yellow potato shipments from Florida were mostly finished by the first week of June, Wiles said.

As a result, Mack Farms was bringing in California yellows to fill the gap. Typically the company sources from the East only this time of year.

Demand for yellows in early June was very strong, Wiles said.

Mack Farms’ varietal mix was tilting more toward reds this year than in years past, with white and yellow volumes down, Wiles said.

Wiles reported good quality on late-season Florida potatoes, with some fading of color on late reds.

Lytch also reported good quality, thanks largely to dry harvest weather. Some spuds were sizing smaller than usual at the end of the deal, thanks to excessive moisture in March, he said.

Reds are the dominant East Coast variety for L&M, followed by yellows and whites, Lytch said. The company also has a small russet deal.

L&M expanded its Florida potato deal enough this year to add a new packing line and more coolers at its Florida shed, Lytch said.