Weather continues to delay harvest in several key growing areas, including Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Dakota. There is a lot less rain in the forecast after a cold front moves through Michigan, but cold temperatures are likely to take chip potatoes off color, and could result in increased bruising. The situation is much worse in Wisconsin, where fields are waterlogged, and in North Dakota, which is being hit by a winter storm today, and where temperatures may stay below freezing for more than 24 hours straight on one to two separate occasions over the next ten days. We understand that North Dakota’s chip potato harvest is virtually complete, but the state is reporting that 23% of the total potato crop was still in the ground at the beginning of this week.
Chip companies are concerned about the storability of this year’s crop, particularly in Wisconsin. They would like to move compromised potatoes as quickly as possible, but have been struggling to find the trucks needed to move those potatoes. Buyers are likely to start taking potatoes from storage. Field delivery contracts are mostly complete now, and the cold weather is likely to bring potatoes being harvested off color and in need of reconditioning. Chip companies may have to reduce promotional activities this winter, in order to have enough potatoes to carry the industry through until the new-crop harvest gets under way.
Canadian chip potato growers are facing some of the same challenges as growers in the upper Midwest. Ontario’s crop appears to be coming in with somewhat better yields than had been anticipated, but production will be down from last year. Quebec’s chip potato crop also is much smaller than its 2017 crop. That is likely to add to the demand for early chip potatoes in 2019.
US fresh potato shipments for the week ending October 6, 2018 totaled 1.597 million cwt. That is down from 1.795 million cwt during the same period in 2017. Michigan packers shipped 7,700 cwt of fresh potatoes during the week ending October 6, 2018, down from 37,295 cwt a year earlier. Last week’s Michigan shipments were 64.9% Russets, 29.9% Round White potatoes, and 5.2% Red potatoes.
Wisconsin packers are selling Size A Russets in 10# bags for mostly $8.00 per 50# bale, unchanged from last week. They are selling 40-70 count cartons for mostly $12.00-$13.00 per box, also unchanged for the week. The weighted average shipping point price for Idaho Norkotahs is $12.76 per cwt. That is down from $13.08 per cwt a week ago.
Long Island packers are selling Size A Round White potatoes in 5# bags for $11.00-$12.00 per 50# bale, unchanged from last week. They are selling 50# bags of large Round White potatoes for $10.00-$11.00 per bag, also unchanged.