(June 11, 4:07 p.m.) Markets for potatoes should stay very strong into August, with supplies scarce thanks to smaller storage crops in Idaho and other states, but there should be plenty of new-crop potatoes for late summer and fall promotions, grower-shippers said.

As storage supplies of russets from Wisconsin and Colorado continue to dwindle, markets will continue to be very strong, said Dick Thomas, vice president of sales for Potandon Produce, Idaho Falls, Idaho.

“I’ve been in this since I was a little kid, and I’ve never seen the market this hot for this long,” Thomas said. “Prices have to reach a plateau at some point, but I don’t know what that will be — we’re in uncharted territory.”

POTATO F.O.B PRICES

On June 10, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $21-22 for 50-pound cartons of russets 40-70 from Idaho, Wisconsin, Washington and Colorado, up from $11-12.50 last year at the same time.

And with wet, cool weather earlier in the season pushing back the beginning of the new Idaho deal to mid- to late-August, up to two weeks later than normal, relief most likely won’t come anytime soon, Thomas said.

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, cool, rainy weather could limit volumes, said Jerry Bushman, an owner of Bushmans’ Inc., Rosholt, Wis.

“This rain has taken any ‘bumper’ out of the crop,” he said.

While it’s too early to tell definitively, new crop production this late summer and fall could be up to 7% lower than last year, said Lee Frankel, president and chief executive officer of Salt Lake City-based United Potato Growers of America.

But that doesn’t mean there will be a shortage, Frankel said. In fact, United Potato would be happy with that size of production decline, given sluggish markets last season because of overproduction.

Frankel said there will be plenty of potatoes this season for promotions beginning in mid- or late August.

FEWER SPUDS THIS SUMMER

While there’s only a slim possibility stores will run out of spuds this summer, don’t expect many, if any, promotions for awhile, Thomas said.

“We want to extend this crop as far as possible, and keep product on shelves,” he said.

As of June 10, supplies of red potatoes were more abundant than supplies of russets, said Steve Tweten, president of NoKota Packers Inc., Buxton, N.D.

But that won’t last, he said. The Red River Valley’s storage crop should run out by about mid-June, leaving deals in other states to carry the load until late summer and fall harvests kick in.

“Supplies will probably be good until early to mid July, then for two or three weeks they’ll really tighten up,” he said.

Red markets in the first half of June were “all over the board,” Tweten said, with valley shipments winding down and new deals kicking off.

“I hope they’ll shake out some and stabilize,” Tweten said of markets.

On June 10, the USDA reported a price of $10.45 for 50-pound cartons of size-A reds from California, comparable to last year at the same time.

Red production in the Red River Valley and Wisconsin was expected to be down this season, Tweten said.

Low storage supply keeps potato markets strong