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Wisconsin potato market is very strong

The movement of Wisconsin’s storage potato crop “is really good. The quality is excellent,” said Tamas Houlihan, director of communications for the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association, based in Antigo, WI.

The yields of the crop harvested in 2013 were a little lower than the 2012 crop. But sales in the last two weeks of December 2013 were 18 percent over the same period in 2012. “Prices a quite a bit higher. In some cases they’re double last year,” he said.

In early January 2014, the market per hundredweight for russets packed in 10-pound film bags was $16. For 60- and 70-count cartons, the price per hundredweight was $23. That is as much as $11 more than a year earlier.

Wisconsin’s potato acreage in 2013 was 63,000, which was down 500 acres from 2012. “The statewide average was 435 hundredweight per acre," he said. "The quality is excellent and we’ve had excellent pack-outs. Everyone is pretty optimistic. From what I’ve heard, growers are very optimistic that prices will hold through the spring.”

The state’s four largest potato shippers expect to ship through June and into July.

“The majority of the Wisconsin crop will finish in April or May but we have big sheds that are really advanced in technology and they will stay in the market year-round," Houlihan said. Those large shippers also source potatoes grown outside of Wisconsin, "but they have the storage technology to keep Wisconsin potatoes into July.”

The early harvest of the new crop of potatoes usually begins in late July. He said 80 to 90 percent of the crop is dug in September, with harvest running into the first two weeks of October.

Houlihan noted that yellow potatoes are a new niche in Wisconsin potato production. Yellow potatoes now account for 10 percent of production in the Badger State. “Growers with yellow potatoes are pretty happy," he said. "The fresh market price is steady and movement has been good.”