(Sept. 24) CHARLOTTETOWN, Prince Edward Island — Prince Edward Island potato exporters said low prices in the U.S. and a late Delaware season are hampering shipments to the Northeast, but the Prince Edward Island Potato Board general manager said it’s too early to judge the season.

“Normally, we’re going with whites this time of the year, but with some of the summer areas still cleaning up (stocks), we’ll be that much later,” said Kent Murray, president of Maritime Potato Inc., Summerside, on Sept. 23. “Usually by now, we’re going pretty steady into the Northeast (U.S.) area. We’ve got a few loads out of the island there, but nothing like normal.”

Ivan Noonan, general manager of the potato board, said harvest continues through early November, and although sales to the U.S. might be lacking, growers haven’t even begun harvesting russets, which will be ready by the second week of October.

Prince Edward Island exporters say low U.S. potato prices are making them put more potatoes into storage to ride the market out. Although southern Delaware’s potato stocks are gone from the summer crop, growers in the northern part of the state also are finding low prices and light retail demand.

“We’re barely moving,” said Paul Cartanza, whose family runs Shadybrook Farms, Dover, Del. “I packed six pallets on (Sept. 22), and three or four loads (Sept. 23), but I’m used to 10 to 14 loads a day. There’s no market, and I’m not impressed with it at this time.”

Cartanza said he’s seeing about 80-90 cents for 10-pound bags, and between $3-3.50 for 50-pound sacks. Orville Willis, operations manager for O’Leary Potato Packers Ltd., O’Leary, said the market for exporters on the island dropped in February and has been stagnant since.

“The previous year, the market went too high and prices dropped,” Willis said. “It’s cheapened so much that it’s hard to get a good price off that. Last year, to the grower, prices were as low as $2.50 to $3.50 a 50-pound sack.”

On Sept. 23, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service reported slow trading for Delaware potatoes, with 50-pound sacks of size A whites $3.25 and 10-pound sacks of size A whites 85 cents.

Some Prince Edward Island potatoes are ready for harvest the third week of July, but shipments to the U.S. don’t start until September.