U.S. potato supplies were down nearly 14 million
hundredweight from last year as farmers prepared
to plant the new crop.
The top 13 potato-producing states held 154
million hundredweight of 2005 fall-crop spuds on
March 1, a decrease of 8 percent from a year
ago, according to figures released last week by
the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
States with traditionally strong fresh markets
showed some of the biggest declines in stored
Idaho held 55 million hundredweight of spuds, a
14 percent decrease from a year earlier.
Colorado was also down 14 percent, with 10.2
million hundredweight of potatoes in storage,
and Wisconsin held 2 percent fewer spuds than a
In California, fall potato stocks were down 40
percent from a year ago to just 900,000 cwt., a
reflection of short supplies in the Klamath
Basin, according to industry analysts.
North Dakota’s potato stocks were down 49
percent and Minnesota held 19 percent fewer
spuds than a year ago.
Washington and Oregon both bucked the trend,
with more stored spuds on hand than a year ago.
Stocks were 10 percent higher in Washington
state than a year ago and 28 percent higher in
Tighter supplies across most of the country have
brought higher prices.
Fifty-pound cartons have been selling for about
$17 to $22 at Idaho packing sheds, a significant
increase from a year ago.
In late February, United Potato Growers of Idaho
reported improvements to the fresh market had
brought offers for field-run dehy-quality
potatoes to $6 per hundredweight or more.
Growers in the Northwest are getting ready to
plant the new potato crop.
Tighter supplies and higher open-market prices
for fresh spuds may tempt growers to increase
plantings this year, said Jim Chapman, a
consultant to the Southern Idaho Potato
“I expect this market will take a pretty good
upturn and it’s going to fuel some optimism,”
Chapman said recently.
Average grower returns in Idaho could hit $7 to
$8 per hundredweight as producers take to the
fields for planting in April and May, he said.
“It could be just enough to encourage guys who
can find some more seed to increase plantings,”
Potato acreage was down 7 percent in Idaho and
nationally, in 2005.
Leaders of SIPCO and United, mindful that
plantings usually increase the year following a
decrease, have been urging growers to show some
restraint this year.
Members of the two organizations have signaled
their intent to reduce plantings by about 10
Dave Wilkins is based in Twin Falls, Idaho. His
e-mail address is email@example.com.