(June 20, 2:13 p.m.) Potato shipments are back on track.

Sources on June 19 said rail traffic is returning to normal after flooding had shut down miles of track for several days in Iowa in mid-June.

Louis Getzelman, director of operations for Morris Okun Inc., New York, said potato supplies were tight on the Hunts Point Market the week of June 16 because railcars had been forced to wait for flood waters to recede in the Midwest.

“Stuff is slowly moving, but it did start again yesterday,” Getzelman said June 19. “I’m not out of product, but it has been tight. Come next week, the pipeline will be filled up.”

Getzelman said the temporary halt of product movement did not affect potato prices.

Omaha, Neb.-based Union Pacific Railroad Co., which had embargoed traffic originating west of Beverly, Iowa, on its main east-west line June 13, repaired and opened one track June 18 and opened the other track June 19.

Executive vice president of marketing and sales Jack Koraleski said in a letter to Union Pacific customers that though the embargo had been lifted, operations remained limited. He said crews were working around the clock to make repairs.

Union Pacific and Jacksonville, Fla.-based CSX Transportation Inc. are the lines used by Riverhead, N.Y.-based Railex LLC.

One train affected

Erin Laguio, marketing manager for CSX’s temperature-controlled foods division, said flooding affected only one Railex train, which arrived more than a day late June 19 in Rotterdam, N.Y.

Railex usually runs through Iowa on its way to Chicago, where a CSX crew takes over from Union Pacific workers. One train, however, was rerouted through Kansas City and St. Louis en route to Chicago.

“This train has high priority, so it’s doing a little better than other rail traffic out there,” Laguio said.

Laguio said he expected another train leaving Wallula, Wash., for Rotterdam on June 19 to run through Iowa on its normal route.

Ed Romanelli, sales manager for Chicago-based Agrow Fresh Produce Co. Inc., said June 19 that a trainload of California potatoes scheduled to arrive June 9 likely would arrive June 22. However, the company was not in danger of running out of supplies at its 100,000-square-foot warehouse.

“It’s all refrigerated product so we’re not concerned,” he said of potatoes that had been stalled in Nebraska.

Return to normal

Kevin Stanger, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Wada Farms Marketing Group, Idaho Falls, Idaho, said he expects things to return to normal the week of June 23.

He said Wada put more product on trucks during the rail shutdown.

However, sources at La Canada, Calif.-based Allen Lund Co. and Phoenix-based Kamble Co. Transportation Services Inc. said they had not seen a noticeable increase in their trucking businesses because of the rail issue.

Meanwhile, two of the biggest produce distributors in Iowa — Capital City Fruit Co. Inc., Des Moines, and Loffredo Fresh Produce Co. Inc., Des Moines — said they had not been greatly affected by the flood.

“Luckily, we lost very few customers,” said Gene Loffredo, president and chief executive officer of Loffredo Fresh Produce. “We have a few that are out of commission. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen — worse than 1993.”

Chief operating officer Brendan Comito said Capital City Fruit did experience some logistical problems.

“Due to road closures we did have to deviate around flooded roads, and this added significant miles to some of our routes,” he said. “On one route on Sunday, we were forced to deviate 220 miles.”