COVID-19 pandemic could force down Idaho potato acres

COVID-19 pandemic could force down Idaho potato acres

Total acres of Idaho’s iconic potato crop could decrease significantly this year as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Although there was a rush on potatoes at grocery stores early on, that has abated somewhat and has not been enough to make up for a major decrease in sales of potatoes and potato products through foodservice channels, according to industry leaders.

Frank Muir, Idaho Potato Commission President and CEO:

“We expect to see a significant cut in acres this year.”
He said the reaction to COVID-19 has had a major impact on the potato processing industry and industry officials have been told processors are planning to cut acreage by 10-20 percent in 2020.

Muir said growers should not rely solely on data from the past several years to make planting decisions in 2020 and he encouraged farmers to have a customer for their spuds lined up before they plant this year.

Frank Muir:

“This is different than anything we’ve ever experienced before.”
Potato planting has just recently begun in Idaho and growers are on the front end of planting spuds.

Zak Miller, a potato farmer, and director of commodities for Idaho Farm Bureau Federation encouraged spud growers to think long and hard this year when making their planting decisions.

Zak Miller, a potato farmer, and director of commodities for Idaho Farm Bureau Federation:

“COVID has changed people’s consumption patterns and producers need to take that into account when they are making their planting decisions.”

“It’s not a typical year and COVID-19 has changed the game.”
Some french fry processors in Idaho have cut contracted acreage by 10-20 percent this year, North American Potato Market News Publisher Bruce Huffaker told Idaho Farm Bureau Federation members and industry leaders April 9 during a conference call.

Some growers have had their contracts cut by as much as 50 percent, he added.

A lot of French fry processing plants are shut down or running on reduced schedules, Huffaker said.

Zak Miller:

“You’re going to definitely need to see some (potato acreage) cuts to bring Idaho’s crop into balance with demand.”
Idaho leads the nation in potato production and Gem State farmers planted 310,000 acres of spuds last year and 315,000 acres in 2018.

Huffaker said potato acres in Idaho will need to decrease by at least 30,000 in 2020 to balance out the supply and demand situation.