Idaho potato harvest conditions ideal so far; total acres up a bit from 2017

Just-harvested potatoes go into storage near Wilder, Idaho, Sept. 28.

U.S. potato imports rose by 10 percent in volume and 12 percent in dollar value for the July-September marketing quarter from a year earlier, Potatoes USA reported. 

Fresh potatoes saw the biggest increase, a 32 percent gain to 77,507 metric tons, the marketing group said in a news release. Imports of dehydrated potatoes increased by 9 percent to 18,161 metric tons while imports of frozen products rose by 5 percent to 253,599. Chip imports rose 20 percent to 5,445.

“Demand for potatoes in the U.S. continues to increase, be they fresh potatoes at retail, or certainly for usage in foodservice and other sectors,” Potatoes USA Chief Marketing Officer John Toaspern said in an interview. “That’s why you see such large quantities of fries coming into the U.S., because there is such a demand for frozen products at foodservice.”

The U.S. continues to export more potatoes than it imports, he said. Exports account for about 20 percent of U.S. potato production.

“Trade occurs for a lot of reasons,” Toaspern said. “There are geographic reasons for imports and exports. There are prices. Sometimes it’s due to marketing and sales efforts by companies, and competitive advantages.” 

The most recent quarterly increase in U.S. potato imports is slightly higher than average “and is a reflection of strong demand,” he said. The year-to-year gain has been from 5 percent to 8 or 9 percent lately.

Potatoes USA reported U.S. potato imports increased from 321,485 metric tons in the July-September quarter of 2017 to 354,731 this year. Dollar value increased from $299.25 million to $334.74 million.

Dollar-value gains from the year-earlier quarter included 12.4 percent for dehydrated potatoes, 22 percent for fresh, 9.6 percent for frozen products and 20.9 percent for chips.

field reporter, SW Idaho and SE Oregon

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