J.R. Simplot Company has cut 35-40 percent of its contracted potato acres in Idaho this year, a company spokesman said.
While no acreage figures are given, the cuts are a percentage of last year’s contracted acres in Idaho.
The cuts will mainly affect growers in southern Idaho, who have been growing for the Heyburn, ID, frozen fry plant. That plant will be closed next year. Acreage cuts in the Heyburn-Burley area have been estimated at 20,000 acres.
Other cuts will affect growers in western Idaho, growing for the Caldwell and Nampa, ID, plants. No cuts have been made for the company’s Aberdeen, ID, fry plant.
In addition, cuts of 5-6 percent have been made in the Columbia Basin, and 2-3 percent in Grand Forks, ND.
“It doesn’t mean we aren’t contracting for our needs,” Fred Zerza, communications vice president, stated. “We are contracting for 95 percent of our needs.” He explained the other 5 percent would probably come from the open market.
The cutbacks have been necessary because the french fry market is off 7-8 percent from 2002 levels for both domestic and international markets. Also, the company is opening a new fry plant in Portage La Prairie, MB, Can., this fall and moving acreage into Canada.
Zerza said while there will be less production at the Caldwell and Nampa plants, the company has no plans for other plant closures. “At least there will be longer down times at the plants (Caldwell and Nampa). The company is still in a decision-making process.”