Fresh potato shipments got underway from Washington’s Columbia Basin and Oregon’s Umatilla Basin in late July with yellow and red potatoes, then with russet norkotahs.
Washington state potato acreage has been stable in recent years at about 170,000 acres, and it is expected to remain similar this year.
About 90 percent of Washington potato volume goes to processors for frozen potatoes. Much of this processing is attributed to access to deepwater ports in Seattle-Tacoma for export to Far East markets.
Strong global demand for frozen potatoes, growing at 6 to 8 percent a year could lead to an even higher percentage of spuds going to the processors in the future.
Only about 2 percent of Washington production is with organic potatoes, which is split evenly between fresh and processing uses.
Washington fresh potato shipments in 2017 totaled 22.9 million 50-pound cartons, up from 20.1 million cartons in 2016, according to the USDA.
Oregon Potato Shipments
Over the past three season Oregon potato shipments came off of 38,900 acres, where fresh volume accounts for about 12 percent of the production.
Limited water supplies could result in a decline in the Klamath Falls growing region in 2018. However, acreage could increase in the Blue Mountain-Hermiston area on the Washington border.
Oregon shipped 5.3 million 50-pound cartons in 2017, up from 5.1 million cartons in 2016. In comparison, the Idaho’s fresh shipments in 2017 were 73.9 million 50-pound cartons, up from 70.4 million cartons in 2016.
Idaho growers harvested 309,000 fall potato acres in 2017, off from 324,000 acres in 2016.
The Washington/Oregon potato industry at times has expressed concerns over rising truck rates for potatoes pointing out the cost of freight has been equaling the cost of the product being hauled. For example, a common truck rate has been $9 per 50-pound carton, which is the average price of a box of russets. This is believed to be possibly opening the door for more regional potato production so receivers can save on freight rates.