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Skyline Potato sees bigger volume and size profile for ‘18

Harvest was good this year in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, and Skyline Potato GM Les Alderete said his Center operation was moving a bigger crop and larger spuds this season.

Going into the Thanksgiving holiday week, Alderete told The Produce News prices were holding and demand was good.

skyline Skyline Potato General Manager Les Alderete said in mid-November his Center, CO, operation was seeing good movement and steady prices thus far in the 2018-19 potato shipping season.“We had perfect weather for harvest,” he said of the fall activity. “The crop looked good, both conventional and organic, and we had bigger sizes and yields.”

Skyline’s conventional program is all russet, and organics are russets and reds.

“Quality is good, and the prices are steady. So far it’s been a good deal,” Alderete noted. He said cartons had lowered somewhat, but consumer packs were holding.

The Mexico market, he said, had responded with good demand, and Colorado’s freight advantage was continuing.

Alderete said trade negotiations between Mexico and the United States “have not hurt the fresh potato deal, and we’re still moving product at a good price.”

Like most shippers, Skyline has been dealing with a tight labor situation, and Alderete said the company is looking into H2B warehouse workers for 2019.

“We already use H2A for harvest,” he said, adding that the guest worker program needs streamlining.

The labor shortage has prompted Skyline and other operations to turn to more automation, and Alderete said, “We continue to look at different options, not to cut people out of jobs but for positions I can’t fill.”

He said automation will be increasingly necessary “as labor continues to tighten and minimum wage continues to go up.”

And he said that while Colorado does have a freight advantage with certain markets, transportation is another area shippers must contend with.

“We’ve been able to find trucks so far, but rates are still higher. And I don’t think they’ll drop. But we are finding trucks and getting product shipped, and people are adjusting to the increasing transportation rates.”