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Severe shortage of potatoes in the United States leads to soaring prices

June 6, 2008
A severe shortage of potatoes nationwide has sent prices soaring, and they’ll probably go higher in the coming weeks if weak supply projections for July and August hold true, grower-shippers and industry officials said.

On June 3, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $20 for 50-pound cartons of russets size 40-70 from Idaho and Colorado, up from $11-11.50 last year at the same time.
And with seed sales down 6.5% this year, Idaho reportedly not taking any new orders and Wisconsin and Washington expected to start harvesting 10 days late this year, it could be tough to find enough potatoes in July and August once the California new potato deal winds down, Finnessy predicted.

Dick Okray, co-owner of Okray Farms, said the market is a direct result of a U.S. Department of Agriculture crop estimate that put the storage estimate too high when it was first released in November and has stayed off through subsequent revisions.

Salt Lake City-based United Potato Growers of America has for months been trying to convince growers and marketers to trust its numbers, which showed fewer potatoes in storage, said Lee Frankel, president and chief executive officer.

Unfortunately, many large marketing companies chose to go with the USDA numbers, and as a result, supplies will be tight until the fall harvests kick off in late August — and prices should continue to rise.

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United Potato Growers of America is a federated farmers cooperative that focuses on managing national potato supply so as to positively affect grower economic success.