Idaho potato grower Dan Moss highlighted a common Catch-22 for his industry when he assessed the progress of the 2012 potato crop.
"Our potatoes are ahead of the last several years. If we continue with some nice weather, our yields are going to be way above trend line," said Moss, a member of the Idaho Potato Commission from Declo. "It's possible we could have way more potatoes on the market."
Trend line reflects production increases growers tend to achieve over time through improved farming practices.
Following a lucrative 2011 season, it's apparent growers throughout the country have planted more acres. Precise estimates won't be available until the National Agricultural Statistics Service releases its July 11 potato crop planting report.
Potato states are also reporting the bulk of their fields are in excellent condition, and most are ahead of schedule. Absent bad weather or disease reversing a strong start to the growing season, many in the industry have begun to wonder if demand will be sufficient to address a likely supply surplus.
"I think the processors are going to use way more potatoes this coming year than they did in the past year," Moss predicted. "It seems like there's a lot of demand on the fry side."
Moss noted the 2011 crop should be exhausted about on time, dehydrated demand is strong, and he's already making sales from his fresh packing facility to his major customers.
Potato analyst Bruce Huffaker, author of North American Potato Market News, forecasts acreage will increase 2-5 percent in the U.S. and Canada, and he agrees crops look good so far.
But Huffaker emphasizes it's too early in the year to make predictions with any certainty.
"People are acting like the sky is falling right now, but current supplies are still relatively tight and a lot can happen between now and the end of harvest," he said.
SOURCE: John O'Connell, Capital Press