Despite damage from record rainfall, north Florida potato growers are reporting high quality on the red potatoes they are harvesting in early June.
Heavy rains pounded the region in late May, with up to 27 inches in some areas. The torrential rains forced some growers, especially in the Bunnell, Fla., area, to abandon their crops. Growers are working with federal and state officials to receive disaster assistance.
Mike Hevener, president of the South Florida Potato Growers Exchange, Winter Park, Fla., which harvests in the more northerly Hastings, Fla., region, called quality surprisingly high during final grading.
“It’s tremendous how these potatoes have been resilient,” he said June 3. “We have residual damage to the crop, but we are trying to work our way through it. We are trying to dig ourselves out of a hole the best we can.”
With damages to the deal remaining at an estimated 70%, prices in early June hadn’t changed much.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture June 2 reported 50-pound sacks of round reds size A from north Florida selling for $10 with Bs at $16, unchanged on the As but up $1 for Bs from late May.
Hevener said 2,000-pound tote bags per cwt. of reds size A were selling for $18, up from $14 when harvesting began in late May.
White potatoes, Hevener said, soared to as high as $28 for 50-pound sacks of As, but soon fell to $18-20.
The USDA in early June reported whites were in too few hands to establish a market.
“Due to unusually high amounts of rain in north Florida last month, there is a wide range in quality being harvested,” the USDA reported June 2.
Whites sold for $15 in late May for 50-pound sacks of round whites size A.
Hevener said he didn’t think Kern County California production would have a big effect on East Coast red sales as he said there weren’t many reds remaining on the East Coast.
Hevener said he thinks prices could improve as north Florida harvesting continues through early July, a week or so later than normal.
North Carolina is the next major reds and whites producing region. That area is expected to start harvesting its whites June 15 and its reds in early July.