Colorado Potato Prices Hold Despite So-So Demand

Published online: May 16, 2019 Articles Tad Thompson, The Produce News
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Source: The Produce News

San Luis Valley potato planting is on schedule this spring, according to Les Alderete, general manager of Colorado Potato Co. Weather has not delayed planting as it has for growers in the Northwest. The Colorado potato harvest is expected to begin in late August.

Alderete said the Colorado potato storage deal should overlap with new-harvest potatoes this summer. “That shouldn’t be a problem as long as demand stays up.”

As the calendar rolled to May, Alderete said, “as an industry, where we’re sitting is that demand could be better, but we’re not in a panic mode.”

In 2018, the San Luis Valley was very dry. However, Colorado skiers enjoyed abundant snowfall this winter and that will translate to plentiful snow melt for San Luis Valley potato growers this spring.

“This year, we’re 140 to 145 percent of normal precipitation,” he said.

The southern Colorado Rocky Mountain ranges received as much as a foot of snow on April 29.

Colorado’s Wolf Creek Pass, well to the north, received 500 inches of snow this winter.

“That’s a lot of snow. There is still a lot of snow in the high mountains,” he noted. “This year there should be a lot of run-off. The wet years make a big difference” for growers.

Potato markets have been slow for Colorado growers in recent months, “but we’ve been able to hold the price.”

Demand was low since prior to Thanksgiving. “Christmas demand was not as heavy as we would have liked. Demand is not as good as before.”

He attributes declining demand to Millennials’ lifestyle and to fad diets, such as the Keto, which discourages consumption of root vegetables.

Still, he reiterated that “prices have been good for the most part. But demand is off.”

Alderete said his firm, which is in Center, CO, is constantly looking for ways to automate to overcome difficulties springing from declining labor availability.

“We have no major changes or upgrades. We just need people to buy more potatoes.”