Idaho's 2012 potato harvest has begun with digging a couple weeks ahead of last year, shipping volumes up considerably and fresh potato prices in the cellar.
"It's shaping up to be one of those years when overall prices to fresh market growers are not going to be very good," said University of Idaho Extension economist Paul Patterson.
On Sept. 6, the fresh price for a 70-pound carton of Idaho Russet Norkotahs—an early season variety—ranged from $6 to $7, with most sales in the vicinity of $6 to $6.25, according to USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service. By comparison, the price for the same product on Oct. 1, 2011, was $10 to $12.
Patterson said the early September price paid to Idaho Norkotah farmers was $4 to $4.50 a cwt, well below the cost of production. In 2011, he estimated Idaho potato production costs at $7.15 to $7.40 per cwt, not counting storage. He estimates production costs have increased 6 to 9 percent this year, and at current Norkotah prices, an eastern Idaho farmer would lose $1,000 to $1,200 per acre.
SOURCE: John O'Connell, Capital Press