Florida potato grower-shippers reported strong demand in early April, but an early start to the northern Florida deal could yield sluggish red potato markets in May.
The week of April 9, all production in the Sunshine State was coming from the southern and central growing regions, said Mike Hevener, president of the South Florida Potato Growers Exchange, Winter Park, Fla.
"Demand has been good up to now," Hevener said April 12.
White production was starting to gap in early April as shippers began running out, Hevener said. Yellow potatoes also were becoming more scarce in the central and southern regions, though gaps shouldn't be as big.
Ken Wiles, general manager of Lake Wales, Fla.-based Mack Farms Inc., reported surprisingly strong demand after Easter.
"Activity has been really brisk this week," Wiles said April 12.
While some southern growers expected to wind down in late April, Mack Farms expected to ship into early or mid-May, Wiles said.
Northern Florida production was expected to begin in late April or early May, Hevener and Wiles said.
Many northern red growers were forced to kill plants earlier than they would have liked because of rain and maturity issues, Hevener said. With significant red volumes yet to ship from southern and central Florida, that could mean an oversupply of reds when northern production kicks off.
"The transition on whites and yellows should be very good-the sticky one is reds," Hevener said.
On April 10, the USDA reported prices of $10.50-11.75 for 50-pound sacks of size-A reds from Florida, down from $14.50-15.75 last year at the same time.
Sacks of Bs were $16-16.75, down from $18.50-20.75.
Some growers near Okeechobee didn't begin their red deals until April 1, Hevener said. They would have to scramble to move all their product before the northern deal begins to avoid an overlap, he said.
"Reds have moved very good up to now," Hevener said. "The early Easter helped. Hopefully it holds what (the market's) doing today."
Whatever happens up north, Wiles said the red market isn't facing anything disastrous.
"It's not what people want, but nobody's going to lose money," he said.
SOURCE: Andy Nelson, The Packer