By JOHN O'CONNELL
PINGREE, Idaho -- Officials at Wada Farms estimate they shipped 500 cardboard bins, each filled with 1,000 pounds of bagged jumbo-sized spuds, during the first week of April for an Idaho Potato Commission promotion.
Chris Wada, director of marketing for Wada Farms Marketing Group, believes IPC's second jumbo bin promotion of the year, which started April 1, has already stabilized prices of spuds over 9 ounces, which are abundant in the 2012 crop.
IPC is reimbursing participating retailers $10 for every 1,000-pound bin purchased featuring 8-pound bags or larger. Spuds must be at least 9 ounces, and bins must be shipped during April to be eligible.
Bins from Wada's eastern Idaho fresh packing facility are filled with 15-pound jumbo bags.
"It's definitely made (supplies) tighter from a packing shed's perspective," Wada said. "It's firmed prices."
According to the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, 50-pound cartons of fresh Idaho potatoes, which include the baker sizes targeted by the bin promotion, have risen 50 cents to $1 during the past few weeks. The price quoted April 11 for 90-count cartons, containing 9-ounce spuds, was $6-$8, mostly $6.50-$7. During the same timeframe, prices declined 50 cents to $1 for 5-pound and 10-pound consumer bags containing potatoes in the 5-ounce range, with 10-pound film bags quoted at $2.50-$3.50, mostly $3-$3.50.
IPC President and CEO Frank Muir said some of the bins his organization provided include images of its Great Big Idaho Potato Truck and fitness guru and IPC advocate Denise Austin.
Muir explained it's been three years since IPC hosted two bin promotions in the same season. It's initial bin promotion, which also targeted spuds over 9 ounces, was in October.
"We use these bin promotions in a tactical way. Every year, Mother Nature provides us with its own unique variety of sizes of potatoes. Sometimes the profile skews larger or smaller," Muir said. "This year we had a lot of larger potatoes."
Muir said bins for the ongoing promotion will be displayed throughout the country, and several large retailers are on board.
He estimates IPC's total investment in the second promotion at about $100,000. He said the displays also act as "billboards" for Idaho potatoes in grocery stores, and the potato truck's second national tour will give retailers along its route more incentive to participate.
A large supply has depressed potato prices well below the cost of production since the 2012 harvest.
"I think it will move a lot of the remaining larger-sized potatoes in the profile," Muir said. "I think this season we'll end up cleaning up this crop, just as we committed at the beginning of the season."
Retailers can find application forms online at www.IdahoPotato.com/, and paperwork for reimbursement must be postmarked no later than July 1.