Red River Valley Enjoys Near-record Crop

Published online: Dec 22, 2017 Articles Tad Thompson, The Produce News
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Source: The Produce News

Red River Valley growers of fresh-market red and yellow potatoes this year are shipping 5 million hundredweight this season, the largest-volume crop in 20 to 25 years, according to Ted Kreis, marketing and communications director for the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association.

Kreis says this isn’t an all-time record, because the Red River Valley produced more potatoes in the 1960s and 1970s: “There were a lot more wash plants” before there were so many competing growing regions around the country.

“I would really like to express how great our quality is,” says Kreis. “We’ve had problems the last few years. We had mud during a wet harvest last year. In 2015 we had growth cracks. … [But] our quality is excellent this year.”

As sales progress this fall, Kreis says “people are coming back for more.” Not only are both the volume and quality high—prices are even “holding their own” this fall.

“There was an initial drop in price early, but now we’re level at $16 or $17 per hundredweight on A-sized reds,” Kreis said on Nov. 17. “That’s a fair price. Last year we were at $20, but that was a small crop. In the last 10 years, we’ve seen $10 and $11. But our cost of production is up. Sixteen dollars doesn’t look as good as it did five or 10 years ago.”

In September, The Produce News reported that roughly 18 percent of the Red River Valley’s 2018 fresh potato production would be yellows. This has tripled in the last six years.

“Demand for red potatoes has seen good growth, but yellow demand continues to increase at an even faster pace,” Kreis says.

Kreis says Red River Valley shippers join shippers of products all over the country in facing a driver shortage for trucks. This makes transportation expensive and hard to find. While this problem may be due to a variety of factors, Kreis believes it mostly springs from federal enforcement of e-logs—digital logs of truckers’ hours on the road. This simply reduces transporters’ availability to move products.