Washington potato farmers benefit from potato shortage elsewhere

Washington potato growers could double what they earn from this year’s crop because of shortages in Idaho, the Upper Midwest, and Canada caused by bad weather in October that forced some producers to leave their spuds in the field.

The shortages could result in higher prices at grocery stores, and some national experts believe the down crop could force shortages in french fries.

However, the good news only goes so far for Washington farmers, because 90 to 95 percent of the crop was grown on existing contracts.   The Washington Potato Commission says any grower who has some open potatoes will do really well, possibly doubling their income.

An increase in fry-processing capacity in Canada boosted demand at a time when frost started hitting the potato growing regions in October. Farmers in Alberta and Idaho were able to salvage some of the damaged crops for storage. But, producers in Manitoba, North Dakota, and Minnesota were forced to abandon some of their potatoes in the fields. As a result, the tight supplies are expected to cause prices to increase across North America.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts domestic output will drop 6 percent this year to its lowest level since 2010. In Idaho, which produces about 31 percent of the U.S. crop, output is forecast to fall 5.5 percent.

However, Washington, which is the nation’s second-largest producer of potatoes, or about 24 percent of the U.S. crop, actually increased its production this year over 2018. The Evergreen State produces about 10 billion pounds of potatoes annually. (Spokesman-Review)

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