Virus Panic Has Shoppers Stockpiling Fresh Potatoes

Grocery store potatoes
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As North American shoppers stock up on non-perishable foods in order to practice social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, packers are having difficulty keeping up with retail demand, the March 18 issue of North American Potato Market News says.

“As consumers eat out less often they need to replace those meals with food prepared at home. Potatoes may be the most versatile vegetable for them to use,” the report says. “That would explain a large portion of the increase in sales through grocery outlets.”

Potato chip demand is also rising as consumers stock up on supplies for social distancing. Chip plants are running full throttle, which may deplete storage potato supplies faster than previously anticipated, the report says.

COVID-19 could also affect frozen potato supplies. Before the pandemic North American fryers were short on supplies of storage potatoes from the 2019 crop, the report says. They were moving potatoes long distances and limiting their freezer inventories to try to make the available raw product last until the start of the Columbia Basin’s 2020 harvest.

While the final impact of COVID-19 on the french fry market is unknown at this point it could balance supplies, the report says. Internationally and domestically restaurants have been forced to close which has reduced french fry demand. The pandemic may even push some extra potatoes into the fresh market.

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