Prices Elevated But Potatoes Offer Consumers Good Value


Potato prices are high, but there are still opportunities for retail and foodservice promotions, according to industry leaders.

The average price for a carton of Idaho potatoes reached $32.77 in late August. 

The USDA reported the average price for Idaho potatoes on Oct. 8 was $17.77 per carton,  down 46% from the late August peak but still 60% up from $11.06 per carton at the same time a year ago.

Meanwhile, the average advertised retail price for all fresh potatoes was $1.47 per pound on Oct. 7, down 9% from $1.62 in late August but up 17% from 1.26 per pound the same time a year ago.

The costs for Idaho growers are way up, which is part of the reason for the acreage reduction this year, said Kevin Stanger, president of Wada Farms, Idaho Falls, Idaho.

“Currently, the costs to grow the potato makes it one of the most expensive crops to grow in Idaho,” he said. “Add to that factor that water shortage was an issue this past season and could be even worse this coming season unless we get a good snow pack this winter,” he said, noting that potatoes use a lot of water per acre compared to other crops like wheat or barley.

Consumers still want potatoes, even at higher prices, Stanger said.

“I think retailers can still move potatoes without thinking they need to discount them,” he said. “Potatoes are still a great buy for the consumer, and there’s not a need to discount them to lower levels this season.”

Foodservice customers might have to adjust their sizing requirements, Stanger said.

“(Foodservice operators) may need to move to smaller sizes with some customers,” he said. “If, overall, the nation has a smaller crop profile, those customers that like big potatoes may need to use a smaller profile.”

Retailers can maximize Idaho potato sales by featuring displays that highlight both the affordability and complete nutritional value of potatoes, said Dick Thomas, senior vice president of sales for Potandon Produce LLC, Idaho Falls, Idaho.

“Potatoes are about as complete a food as one can buy from a nutritional point of view, they taste great and are affordable for families to incorporate into meals multiple times each week,” he said.

From The Packer