Trucks tight for Red River Valley potatoes, shippers report

11/09/2011 01:20:00 PM
Andy Nelson

Courtesy NoKota Packers Inc.Red River Valley potato shippers expect strong demand for a larger, high-quality crop, though many were dealing with transportation headaches in early November.

Finding enough trucks to bring potatoes to market has been a bigger challenge than usual this fall, said Paul Dolan, general manager of Associated Potato Growers Inc., Grand Forks, N.D., which expects volumes to be up about 10% this season.

“It hasn’t been this bad in at least five years,” Dolan said. “We’ve lost opportunities to ship because we’ve been unable to put wheels under (loads).”

Sluggish demand also has limited shipments at the beginning of the deal, but Dolan expects that to turn around.

“It’s been slower than normal for this time of year, but business looks good ahead,” he said Nov. 8. “It’s been better the past week.”

On Nov. 8, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $11 for 50-pound sacks of A’s from the Red River Valley, up from $10.25 last year at the same time. Sacks of B’s were $16-17, comparable to last year.

High prices over the summer reduced movement, and some retailers have yet to adjust prices down after the fall harvests, Dolan said. Once they do, demand should pick up.

Trucks have been extremely tight thus far this season, but NoKota Packers Inc., Buxton, N.D., hasn’t seen a dropoff in shipments, said Steve Tweten, president and sales manager.

“You just have to work a little harder,” Tweten said. “We’ve had very good demand.”

Prices will likely stay stable through Thanksgiving, Tweten said. After that, he said, it’s anybody’s guess.

Volumes are expected to be up slightly for NoKota Packers this season, thank to both higher acreage and higher yields.

O.C. Schulz & Sons Inc., Crystal, N.D., expected to begin shipping late the week of Nov. 7 or early the week of Nov. 14, said David Moquist, partner and sales manager.

While it was still early, Moquist expected strong movement at the beginning of the 2011-12 season.

“From the phone calls we’ve had, demand should be OK,” he said Nov. 8. “From what I hear, demand for B’s is especially good.”

Color and quality were good at the beginning of the deal, Moquist said.

Dolan also reported good quality. Growers had few storage concerns, and potatoes were cooling well in storage, he said. Sizes for Associated will tilt heavily toward A’s, with few B’s and large premium spuds likely, he said.

Tweten said growers were reporting no storage-related problems as of Nov. 8, and that quality was excellent.

“The color is phenomenal so far this season,” he said.



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