Minnesota and North Dakota Red River Valley potato producers shipped more than 700,000 hundredweight of potatoes in September and October, a 32 per cent increase over last year’s count, according to the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association (NPPGA).
That’s slightly ahead of shipments at that time for the 2015 crop, making this year the largest fresh crop harvest in many years, according to the association.
Producers faced a trucking shortage because truckers were sent south to deliver relief items to hurricane victims. That left other industries, including potato farmers, with fewer trucks to send their products across the country.
Crops look promising this year, especially after 2016 brought a wet year and a poor harvest. Producers wrapped up the harvest in late October, and while final numbers won’t be out for a few months, the industry overall expects an average to above-average crop when it comes to yields.
The quality of the potatoes is better than recent years, and farmers also produced more yellow potatoes than in previous years, including 2015, which had a slightly smaller crop compared with this year. Yellow potatoes made up about 21 per cent of the Valley’s fresh crop this year, an increase from the 15 per cent produced in 2015, according to the NPPGA. But reds still are in high demand, and yellows tend to take away market shares from russet potatoes, which are primarily grown in western states like Idaho.
The Red River Valley produces the most reds in the U.S. and now ranks in the top five for yellow potato production, according to the NPPGA.