ORLANDO, FL — Mother Nature took a while, but she smiled upon the Red River Valley this fall. Rain in the growing months and at the start of harvest hurt production for Red River Valley red potato growers, but on Oct. 15, as Ted Kreis worked from the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association booth at the PMA Fresh Summit, he indicated that the valley’s recent weather was dry for harvest and the forecast was good.
“We have plenty of quality potatoes available," he said. "There may be a supply problem in February and March” as the storage season winds down earlier than normal, but until then, “we have potatoes and they are excellent.”
In mid-October, “maybe 65 percent of the harvest is done,” he noted.
Many of those red potatoes are put into storage as they come off the field. Some packers don’t start packing until the harvest is over. As of Oct. 15, “the majority of the houses are shipping,” he said.
While the valley, overall, had a very difficult season, yields were close to 400 cwt per acre to the south of Grand Forks. “The average is 200 to 220 on dry land reds,” he said. Irrigated fields, which are the exception, produce “much higher” yields.
“But north of Grand Forks, we’ve had below average yields. There are wet conditions that we’re still fighting.” It will be early November before yields from those growing areas are known, “but it will be far below last year’s crop, no matter how you slice it,” Kreis said.
The Red River Valley is the nation’s largest producer of red potatoes. On a national marketing level, “shortages in the Red River Valley pushed prices up," he said. "There are still plenty of potatoes available, but buyers have to pay more. Still, we would encourage grocers to promote red potatoes because the consumer wants them. They will never be as cheap as russets this year, but still people are looking for them.”