The coronavirus pandemic has caused a once strong potato market to make an abrupt about-face, leading some Idaho growers to dump surplus spuds from storage cellars or to feed them to cattle.
Just a few weeks ago, Idaho potato farmers were enjoying some of their best fresh prices in recent memory and anticipated supplies would run short in the coming summer. The combination of lower spud yields and widespread frost damage during the 2019 harvest had contributed to a smaller statewide crop than normal, the Post Register reported Saturday.
The critical restaurant and food service market, however, has taken a dive due to stay-at-home orders amid the COVID-19 crisis. In response, potato processors have cut back on contracted acres with farmers, and fresh potato prices have plummeted, even as demand at grocery stores has been strengthened.
According to USDA Market News reports for the Twin Falls and Burley district, 50-pound cartons of restaurant-grade potatoes were fetching sky-high prices, between $22 and $23, on March 16. By the April 23 report, however, carton prices had fallen to between $10 and $12.