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David Sparks Ph.d Potato Prices
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Idaho Ag Today
Date: January 02, 2018

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Potato production in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon fell 6.3 percent this past year on 21,000 fewer planted acres, according to the USDA's December crop production report but nationwide production fell just 1 percent.


In 2017,  Idaho along with Washington and Oregon made up 60.9 percent of national production. But that number dropped to 57.5 percent in 2017, according to NASS.


United States production decline is significant because the region produces 78 percent of all potatoes processed in the U.S. and 61 percent of fresh russets produced in the U.S. Market experts think that russets make up about 85 percent of the PNW crop this year. And shortages should keep the market steady and should climb slightly into 2018.


As of Dec. 1, Pacific Northwest potato stocks were down 9 percent. Processing from June through November was up slightly and fresh usage was down only 0.8 percent – meaning the market crunch is ahead because the US did not cut back on usage during the first six months, so a shortfall could come in the next six months.


US potato processors and fresh buyers will compete against one another for the existing supply. Fryers already locked up what they need shifting the competition between fresh buyers and dehydrators, according to market watchers.


The US Market is already reacting to the tight supply and that's spiked russet prices more than 50 percent compared to 2016. Prices in Idaho for Russet Burbanks for the fresh market are averaging $18.57 a hundredweight, and Russet Norkotahs are running $17.34. Prices to growers are close to $9 a hundredweight, compared with about $4 this time last year, he said.


Across the nation, production is down nearly 8 million hundredweight and 5.7 percent in Idaho, 6.6 million hundredweight and 6.3 percent in Washington and 2.2 million hundredweight and 9.4 percent in Oregon, NASS reported.


For five long years, prices were below the cost of production, especially table potato growers. Idaho farmers were faced with tough planting decisions last spring, there was also a lot of uncertainty with a large processing operation in eastern Idaho changing hands.


While prices on competing crops were weak, the situation decreased planted acreage. In addition, yields weren’t quite as good as they have been according to marketers.


Growers planted 15,000 fewer acres in Idaho, 5,000 fewer acres in Washington and 1,000 fewer acres in Oregon. Yields per acre were down 5 hundredweight in Idaho, 25 hundredweight in Washington and 40 hundredweight in Oregon, NASS reported.

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