North American stocks of french fries and other frozen potato products are down 7.2 per cent from 2020 as of Sept. 30, the Oct. 28 issue of the North American Potato Market News (NAPM) says.
The report notes freezer stocks increased by 1.2 million lbs during September, however the five-year average for September is 36.3 million lbs.
“This year’s minimal buildup during harvest highlights the raw product supply and labour challenges facing the frozen product sector,” the report says.
NAPM says the Sept. 30 freezer stocks equal a 30.3 day inventory based on current data about usage rates — this is the lowest on record for this time of year. If October buildup and November/December usage is average, it would leave the industry with a 28.5 day inventory. The report notes this would be the lowest year-end supply, relative to usage, on record.
Processing Supply Issues
Processors in North America are facing major raw product supply issues for the remainder of the 2021/22 processing season, the report notes.
“If finished product demand remains strong fryers will need to find large volumes of open raw potatoes to keep their customers supplied until the 2022 harvest gets underway.”
There is limited raw product supplies and reduced finished product recovery rates in key processing states which has exacerbated the problem, NAPM says. Logistical issues are also making it difficult and costly to transport excess potatoes from the east to processing plants in the west.
Additionally in Idaho, growers shifted from growing Russet Burbank to Russet Norkotah potatoes which is limiting the supply of open market potatoes. The report notes table potato growers in Idaho have switched from Burbanks to Norkotahs over the last 30 years.
“The supply of open Russet Burbank potatoes available to the processing market has essentially been cut in half by this shift. As a result, fryers have been sampling and purchasing Russet Norkotah potatoes in an attempt to fill this year’s raw product supply gap.”