COVID-19 has “scrambled” the outlook for growers, said economist Bruce Huffaker, who is president of North American Potato Market News, Inc. Huffaker believes the potato market has made up a great deal of ground following the COVID-19 hit, and demand should be relatively strong looking ahead. John O’Connell reports in an article published by Farm and Ranch.
Between April and June, global trade in french fries declined by 30%. It’s been recovering since then, Huffaker said. “One of the challenges we are seeing still is while global trade is only down 2.8%, North American exports are still running 15% behind last year’s pace,” Huffaker said.
Huffaker said fresh potato shipments have been up, but much of that increased volume has gone to retail outlets. “On the other hand, we have a major slowdown in food service sales due to a shutdown of restaurants (due to COVID-19),” Huffaker said. “That created some major problems for Idaho shippers. Idaho is reliant on food service business to carry its market.”
Idaho growers have faced softer prices than growers in some other regions as a result, Huffaker said. Last spring, processors reduced their contract volumes with Idaho spud growers by 15 to 20 percent, he said.
“In order to have confidence to plant potatoes, growers are going to have to have contracts,” Huffaker said. “Going into the 2021 crop, how much processors will want to have planted will be interesting.”