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Slim supplies continue on potatoes in North America, coronavirus influencing buyers and retailers

Potato supplies continue to be snug across North America, though how tight things are is still to be determined.

“Supplies have been tight this season from the beginning,” says Ryan Wahlen of Pleasant Valley Potato in Aberdeen, ID. “It’s a combination of factors. We had a couple of frosts last spring that set crops back. Yields were off significantly and the size profile was much smaller than normal. There was also an early frost in October that set roughly 20-25 percent of Idaho’s crop back and affected supply significantly,” he told Astrid Van Den Broek of FreshPlaza.

Ken Gad of South Easton, MA-based Cambridge Farms Inc. adds that there’s an uncertainty almost about potato inventories in North America currently. “I’m seeing a lot of confusion in the supply chain. The confusion is brought on by what the true remaining usable storage crop is,” says Gad.

Adding to the unknown are concerns over the coronavirus. “I think it’s influencing the buyers a lot,” says Wahlen. “There are a few concerned who aren’t sure how heavy to carry an inventory of a perishable item. They’re worried about their work force being impacted. They’re worried about entertainment and travel being impacted and in turn that has an impact on foodservice.”

Gad notes something similar. “Looking at the volume of potato shipments across the past 30-90 days, I can tell you that retailers have switched and said they’re not going to put potatoes on the shelves that they can’t move at a rapid pace,” he says.

Wahlen notes that pricing is high, but how high depends on sizing.

Read Van Den Broek’s full report on FreshPlaza here

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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