Potato storage

An Aberdeen, Idaho, farmworker loads potatoes from storage into a truck for shipment to a dehydration plant. The amount of potatoes in storage is up slightly this year.

The amount of potatoes held in storage rose slightly in the past year.

USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service reported the 13 major potato-production states held 214 million hundredweight in storage on Feb. 1, up 3 percent from a year earlier. Potatoes in storage accounted for 51 percent of the fall storage states’ 2018 production, unchanged from the previous year.

Potato disappearance, at 206 million hundredweight as of Feb. 1, was up 4 percent. Season-to-date shrink and loss, at 17.1 million hundredweight, was up 9 percent.

“Right now it’s a little slow, which is not unusual for February,” said Jim McBride, sales manager at Mart Produce, a Rupert, Idaho, packer and shipper of fresh potatoes. “After February, things start to pick up with a little better demand. Movement will be a little slow in February and will start picking up in March.”

The statistics are useful, but buyers can gauge supply by the volume of sales calls they receive, he said. “A lot of people like to predict, but the market dictates what’s out there. The numbers are saying we have plenty of potatoes. That can change if processors buy some from the fresh market, for example.”

Randy Hardy, board chairman at Sun Valley Potatoes in Rupert, said movement, though slower than usual in February, has been “decent” and in line with expectations. The company continues to run full-day work shifts.

“There seems to be pretty good demand, and prices are moving up slowly,” he said.

Processors in Idaho and in southeastern Oregon’s Malheur County used 39,535 hundredweight of potatoes for the season, up 2 percent from February 2018, NASS reported.

In Washington and in other Oregon counties, 50,300 hundredweight of potatoes had been used by processors for the season, up 8 percent. Processors in the eight major potato-processing states used 111 million hundredweight for the season, up 4 percent. Usage for dehydrated products accounted for 20,820 hundredweight of total potatoes processed.

Potato stocks in Idaho on Feb. 1 totaled 79 million hundredweight, up from 75 million a year earlier. Disappearance as of Feb. 1 was 61.2 million.

Feb. 1 potato stocks in Oregon totaled 15 million hundredweight, down from 20,700 a year earlier. Disappearance as of Feb. 1 was 13.1 million.

In Washington, NASS reported, Feb. 1 potato stocks totaled 49 million hundredweight, down from 62 million a year earlier. Disappearance as of Feb. 1 totaled 56.6 million.

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