Although quality is very good, supplies are a little shorter on red potatoes this year – about 30 per cent less on average due to rain. “The (Red River) Valley will ship less and of course the price is quite a bit higher than it was last year,” said Kevin Olson of Ben Holmes Potato Company. He did have one grower that raised a bumper crop.
Last year the price was down about $12 but it’s now averaging about $20. Olson says another reason other states aren’t quite so busy as they’d like is due to Idaho’s reported bumper crop. “There are a lot of russets out there and because of that I think they took the bulk of promotions for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.”
Ben Holmes Potato is a sales office and brokerage for area table stock potato farmers. Red River Valley Potatoes are grown in Minnesota and North Dakota with other produce coming from Wisconsin and Michigan. Varieties include Minnesota Dryland Reds and Minnesota Peatsoil Reds. Some yellow potatoes are also sold in season.
He says that quality is more relevant than it was before in the potato world, especially for reds. “Everybody wants nice stuff, they don’t want marginal or substandard. If you’ve got good quality you can get a better price for it and if you find the right customers your demand can stay consistent.”
Customers want something “pretty” and Olson adds that aesthetics are a factor. Although colour isn’t a grade condition to be #1, it has an impact. “If my potatoes are redder they’ll want my stuff first and even be willing to pay more. Aesthetically they want potatoes that look like apples these days.”