LAKE WALES, Fla. — Florida's spring potato harvest has brought lighter than normal volume, smaller sizes and higher prices after January freezes cut an estimated 25% of the crop.

Florida potato deal produces smaller volumes and sizes

Doug Ohlemeier

Workers grade yellow potatoes at Mack Farms Inc., Lake Wales, Fla., in late March.
This season’s diggings have brought lighter than normal volume, smaller sizes and higher prices.
Packers say buyers should expect volumes to increase during early April.

Shippers, however, say buyers can expect volumes to increase in early April.

Cold weather has doubled the amount of B- and creamer-sized potatoes, said Jason Turner, salesman with Mack Farms Inc. Normally, the smaller potatoes account for about 5% of the crop. This year, it’s as high as 10%.  

“That should change as we get more into the April crop,” Turner said in late March. “We still have a lot of our acreage remaining to harvest. There still is an opportunity to make for a healthy crop. Without heavy rains, we should have good volume in April, May and June.”

Though central and south Florida’s potato deal normally ends in late May, Turner said strong volumes should last through June of Florida’s new crop of reds, whites and yellows.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on March 31 reported $16-18 for 50-pound sacks of round red As from south Florida with Bs selling for $20-24; 50-pound cartons of red creamers sold for $35. For 50-pound sacks of round whites size A, the USDA reported $25 with B sizes selling for $20 and 50-pound carton of creamers at $40-50.

That’s up from late February when growers reported $15.50 for round red 50-pound sacks size A, $18.50 for size Bs, $35 per 50-pound carton of creamers; $22.50 for 50-pound sacks of yellow As, $17.50 for yellow Bs and $50 for 50-pound carton of creamers.

Greg Cardamone, general manager of vegetables for L&M Cos., Raleigh, N.C., said a severe January rainstorm washed away seed potatoes and forced growers to replant, pushing back the start of this spring’s north Florida deal.

L&M normally begins north Florida harvest during the last couple of days of April, but Cardamone said it will be several weeks behind that.

“The cold initially stunted the growth and that was followed by the hard rain,” he said in early April. “With these warm days and warm nights we have been having, they have really come back. The crop is coming along nicely. Sizings will be a little small but the quality will be good.”