“We are coming out of a season with superb growing conditions in Idaho and Washington state,” says Marc Turner with Bushwick Commission Company. Idaho sets the tone as it is the largest growing state. “Because of great yields and high quality, everyone in the industry is now working with oversupply and low prices,” Turner added. “Going into the new season, the market was low to begin with due to spillover volume from the 2015 harvest.“ Although other pockets of the country didn’t have as much oversupply, volumes out of Idaho and Washington overshadow other states. Given that potatoes are available year-round without a supply gap, Turner’s outlook is a steady situation with low prices. He compared the potato industry to the onion sector. “With onions, prices are low as well. It’s probably even worse, but at least it is a seasonal business,” he mentioned. “Supplies usually finish up in spring and the outlook beyond spring looks more positive.
Turner doesn’t expect acreage to drop significantly this coming season. If smaller growing regions lower their acreage, the difference will be marginal. It will only make a difference if large growers decrease their acreage. “As the cycles go, a lot of growers tend to continue doing what they’ve always done,” said Turner.
Russets are still the dominant potato variety, in Idaho as well as in other parts of the country. However, in recent years Turner has noticed a shift towards red potatoes. “Restaurants increasingly put red potatoes on their menus and consumers take the ideas from restaurants home. In addition, retailers increasingly put red potatoes on their shelves and use them as a promotional item.” Demand for yellow potatoes is relatively stable whereas white potatoes are losing market share.