USDA estimates US fall potato production at 398.9 million cwt. That is down 7.7 million cwt from the 2016 crop, a 1.9% decline. In general, production losses in the Pacific Northwest (Idaho, Washington and Oregon) were partially offset by increased production in the central states. However, industry experts throughout the Midwest believe that USDA is overstating the size of crops in those regions. Production estimates for Wisconsin and Michigan appear to be particularly questionable. Wisconsin is supposed to have produced its largest crop since 2012 – yet movement of both fresh and chip potatoes is running behind last year’s pace, and there is no indication that potatoes are backing up in storage.
USDA puts Michigan’s production at 18.6 million cwt. That exceeds the 2016 crop by 1.58 million cwt. USDA put the state’s average yield at a record 400 cwt per acre. Growers believe that the actual yield is closer to 380-385 cwt per acre. While some growers did produce their best crop ever, others came up short of their contract obligations. Furthermore, yields on crops in northern Michigan may have fallen short of average, which would have dragged the state’s yield average down. Finally, it appears that at least 1,500 acres of this year’s crop sustained serious frost damage, and may not be harvested. If those potatoes are abandoned, that would reduce the size of this year’s crop by at least 600,000 cwt. USDA would not have included that loss in its November crop estimate, since the forecast was based on November 1 conditions and expectations.
US fresh potato shipments for the week ending November 11, 2017 totaled 2.270 million cwt. That is up from 2.245 million cwt shipped cwt during the same period, in 2016. Michigan packers shipped 107,000 (?) cwt of fresh potatoes during the week ending November 11. That is up from 39,350 cwt a year earlier. Due to an outage on USDA’s web portal, we do not have a breakdown of Michigan shipments by variety.
Michigan packers are selling 10# bags of Size A Russet potatoes for $1.60-$1.80 per bag, unchanged from last week. Wisconsin packers are selling 5/10# Russet potatoes for mostly $7.00-$7.50 per 50# bale, unchanged from last week at this time. Wisconsin 40-70 count cartons are selling for mostly $12.00-$13.00 per box, up from $12.00-$12.50 last week at this time. The weighted average price for Idaho Norkotahs is $16.76 per cwt, up from $16.70 per cwt a week ago.
Michigan packers are selling 10/5# bags of Round White potatoes for $9.00-$11.00 per 50# bale, unchanged for the week. Long Island packers are selling Size A Round White potatoes for $8.00-$8.25 per 50# sack, unchanged for the week. They are selling Chefs for $9.00-$9.50 per 50# sack, also unchanged. Maine shippers are selling 5/10# bags of 2” min Round White potatoes for $9.00-$9.50 per 50# bale, unchanged from last week at this time.