Retail Shortage of Potatoes Reported Throughout Idaho
Grocers in the nation’s top potato-producing state have had a hard time keeping spuds in stock, in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, with area tuber shortages becoming evident March 17, on St. Patrick’s Day. Shoppers preparing to hunker down at home to avoid contracting the contagious disease have taken to buying foods that store well by the cartload.
“It is strange. I didn’t think I’d ever see a shortage, at least at the store level, of potatoes in Idaho,” said Travis Blacker, industry relations director with the Idaho Potato Commission, for postregister.com.
Reports show consumer bag prices skyrocketed during the course of five days due to the coronavirus-related demand. On March 11, USDA Market News reported the price of 10-pound baled bags of fresh Russet Norkotahs shipped from the Twin Falls and Burley district at USD5 to USD6, and had reached USD6.50 to USD7 by March 16.
Potato prices were already strong due to a tight supply, caused by a lower yielding 2019 crop and losses caused by early frost. Market News reported 50-pound cartons of restaurant-grade fresh Norkotahs were selling for USD22 to USD23 on March 16, compared with USD8.50 to USD10 on the same date a year ago.
“Most grocery stores have loosened their specs on what they’ll accept from shippers, too,” a Market News official said.
In addition to experiencing stronger demand from retailers, Blacker said Idaho fresh potato packers have reported a significant spike in sales from customers who buy cartons directly from their sheds.
Dean Gibson, an owner of Magic Valley Produce in Paul, said that the challenge is finding trucks to deliver enough spuds to keep up with demand.
Gibson noted that the industry has been struggling in recent years with sluggish retail sales of fresh potatoes. He hopes the recent surge in fresh, retail demand will help the industry reverse the trend.