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US potato market shows clear pandemic effect

It was common for a fruit or vegetable to be having a good winter in terms of volume, pricing and demand, and then in mid-March, when lockdowns began, the item would see a sudden demand surge then crash. Greg Johnson, Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services reports.

Johnson writes that no produce item shows this pandemic effect as clearly as potatoes, whose average F.O.B. price has been about half of what it was in early March, as demand has been significantly damaged by restaurant, school and institution closures.

IRI figures show potatoes up 33 percent in dollar growth and 21 percent in volume growth over 2019 at retail, but that can’t make up for the demand drop in foodservice for the item that serves a versatile role in all three meal occasions.

In contrast to the previous years, when the price was very steady and almost predictable, in the range of $10-15 per case, 2020 is a whole different story, said Raul Lopez, an agronomist with Agtools Inc.

Blue Book has teamed with Agtools Inc., the data analytic service for the produce industry, to look at a handful of crops and how they’re adjusting in the market during the pandemic.

F.O.B. prices in Idaho during this year reflect the pandemic effect. In January through mid-March, the price was in the range of $20+ per case, much higher than in 2019. When the lockdown started, the price dropped to $10. Now last week, we can observe a little recovery with an upward trend that may continue as the economy and restaurants reopen.

Read the full report in Blue Book Services here
Photo: Netnebraska.org

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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