Idaho Russet Market Edges Tighter

Published online: Dec 19, 2017 Articles Dennis M. Rettke
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Source: Fresh Plaza


The russet potato market in Idaho is edging tighter as supplies become stretched. Yields are moderately down in the region, with the state of Idaho issuing a report that indicates russet numbers are down across the state by between 5 and 8 percent. Suppliers say that reduced acreage is contributing to the shortfall.

“It’s a very active market on Idaho Russet potatoes,” says Colin Gibson, of Heyburn, Idaho-based 20/20 Produce Sales. “Yields are down in the order of 5 to 8 percent in conjunction with planted acreage, which is down by about the same. The smaller yield and [fewer] planted acres has contributed to a tight market on the Idaho russets. It’s a very active market, which has been reinforced by good demand from the consumers. We have maintained a good market right through the holiday season, which isn’t always the case. This is a good indication of just how strong the market is, and we expect it to continue to be a good, steady market for the remainder of the season.”


Transport Issues Compound Shortage

Idaho potato growers are not immune to the trucking challenges that have affected many regions across the country this year. As a result of the shortage of truck availability, growers have been forced to stem production. Without sufficient trucks to get product to market, suppliers have not been forced to burn though available supplies.

“The truck shortage has meant that growers haven’t been able to get product out as much as they would have liked,” says Gibson. “This has forced folks to slow down production and run light schedules. It was recently announced that there would be an additional 90-day grace period for the mandatory introduction of the e-logs (Department of Transportation-mandated electronic logbooks). However, it’s unclear how this mandate will change the current situation. Already we are seeing some trucking companies increase rates because it takes longer to arrive at their destinations, which decreases turnaround for the operators. We have also heard that this mandate may push some of the older drivers out and into retirement as they would have to work more days on the road for the same or less money.”


Russet Shortage Yet to Peak?

The russet shortage doesn’t appear to be easing, with no clear end in sight. It looks likely to continue well into the New Year and possibly up until the 2018 harvest begins next summer.

“When we look ahead toward May/June/July, we are expecting to see a very active market,” Gibson says. “We had very cold weather during parts of the harvest, which in some cases can contribute to long-term storability. If that becomes the case, there will be additional sorting and additional grading of product, which should be gladly accepted by the processors.

“Both varieties of russets, the Norkotah and Burbank, are seeing good demand,” he adds. “The Burbank stores longer, so we tend to ship them through July. The Norkotah is our early harvest variety and is typically shipped into April or longer. Right now, we are seeing market prices on the Burbank 40s and 50s of around $10, while 60s through 100s are $12 to $12.50. Norkotahs are pricing around $1 less per case.”