Posts Tagged “Red River Valley”
By Ted Kreis – NPPGA Communications
Truck shortage cause shippers lost sales.
Marketers in the Red River Valley held the base price for #1 size A reds at or above $15 per hundredweight (cwt.) from September through February but a chain of events this spring sent the market on a big decline with some loads being sold as low as $8.00 per cwt. in mid-April. That is a 14-year low.
- 1. Big Crop – The Red River Valley had a big red potato crop, perhaps the largest since the 1970’s. Shippers knew it would be a challenge, but there was hope it may turn out okay like another big crop year, 2015-16. But one key event happened that year that baled the Red River Valley out; a crop disaster in Florida. That didn’t happen this year. With both regions having a large red crop, the late winter market became very competitive.
2. Transportation Shortage – There is a well-documented shortage of truck drivers in the U.S. for various reason. Areas outside busy shipping lanes, like us here in the Red River Valley, have been hit particulary hard. Finding trucks to move loads out of the valley has been exasperated by this year’s big crop.
3. Lost Business – Because of the inability to get trucks earlier in the season, ads with large retailers had to be turned down because shippers could not promise on-time deliveries. Multi-load sales opportunities for Thanksgiving and Christmas ads were lost. This likely led to the loss of return business for the remainder of the season. Retailers began running fewer red potato ads; statistics from AMS’s National Retail Report confirm this. A year ago, grocery retailers ran 96,201 red potato ads nationwide from October through February. This year they ran only 68,019, a 29 percent decline, or the loss of over 28,000 promotions!
The Northern Plains of North Dakota and Minnesota is the 3rd largest potato growing region in the country. Over 250 growers produce over 40 million hundredweight of potatoes a year. The region is the home of famous Red River Valley Red Potatoes, three french fry plants, two potato chip plants, several refrigerated product producers, and over 60 certified seed growers.
By Ted Kreis
Northern Plains Potato Growers Association Communications
Fresh shippers from the Red River Valley are off to a strong start having already shipped over 700,000 hundredweight of potatoes prior to November 1st. That is a 32 percent increase over last year, a year that growers battled through wet harvest conditions.
Shippers believe they could have shipped even more potatoes this fall had trucks been more readily available. Packers with the ability to load railcars are doing so in a big way to help move the crop. And don’t look for more trucks anytime soo. Thanksgiving turkey truck demand and hunting season are expected to make 18 wheelers even tougher to get the rest of November.
The 2017 fresh crop is the largest in many years but not by much. It barely edged out the 2015 crop for total tonnage. Though similar in size, there are two glaring differences.
First, yellow potatoes make up nearly 21 percent of the 2017 Red River Valley fresh crop; that compares to just 13 percent in 2015. This has left packing sheds with considerably fewer reds to move compared to 2015, but of course more yellows The increase in yellow production both here and in other parts of the U.S. is in response to a continued increase in consumer demand. Nobody knows when or if the trend will subside.
Secondly, the quality is much better this year. In 2015 there was an unusually high number of growth cracks and other cosmetic issues. This year the color and appearance of the potatoes is excellent which has buyers excited and has created high demand for Red River Valley Red Potatoes.
The Red River Valley has long been the nation’s largest producer of red potatoes, and now ranks in the top five for yellow potato production as well.
The Northern Plains Potato Growers Association is located in East Grand Forks, MN
RRV potatoes from Grand Forks, ND – grossing about $3200 to Dallas.
Red River Valley red potato shipments could be off 30 to 40 percent this season due to excessive rains, while Prince Edward Island is looking a normal volume.
During the 2015-16 shipping season, 25 percent of all red potatoes shipments in the U.S. originated from the Red River Valley eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota.
The remaining 75 percent were spread out among 11 other shipping regions. The state of Florida ranked second with roughly 12 percent, while the Big Lake region of Minnesota came in third with a nine percent.
Due to weather factors delaying the Red River Valley harvest this fall, there wasn’t the urgency to ship red potatoes from the new crop out of Central Minnesota (Big Lake). This latter area typically starts shipping a month or so ahead of the Red River Valley and works to complete its season before the valley starts. Big Lake also does not storage potatoes like is done in the valley.
When the Valley started shipping in October, red potato shipping regions around the country such as Wisconsin, Colorado, Idaho and the Skagit Valley in Washington, had light volume as well.
While loadings of red potatoes has been a little different so far this season, one thing potato haulers can pretty much count on every year – a flood of Idaho russets courtesy of over producing growers. For example a bale of Idaho russets can be delivered for around $4.00. Folks, that’s cheap!
A recent issue of the North American Potato Market News points out last year’s national red shipments exceeded 2011-12 shipments by 1.7 million cwt, or 14 percent.
Prince Edward Island Potato Shipments
Prince Edward Island is the leading province in Canada with potato shipments and expects to have about 25 million cwt (hundred weight). The potatoes are grown on 89,000 acres, which has remained steady for the past four or five years.
PEI accounts for about 25 percent of Canada’s potato shipments. About 30 percent of the crop is shipped to the fresh market, 60 percent for processing and 10 percent for seed.
It used to be produce truckers rarely had avocados very high on their list of items to haul, but that has changed over the past decade or so. This year about 1.8 billion pounds (450,000 truck load equvialents) will be shipped to U.S. markets. which includes both domestic production and imports. This compares to 500 million pounds in 2000. Last June set a record for monthly shipments with 180 million pounds of avocado shipped. In 2015, loadings should hit the 2-billion-pound mark.
While California U.S. avocado shipments (which should end up at about 315 million pounds this year) are winding down with only about 20 percent of its crop left, Mexico is ramping up, with volume loadings headed to the U.S. starting this month. During Mexico’s 2013-14 season it shipped 1.1 billion pounds, with the U.S. being its biggest market. This season Mexican avocado shipments are expected to increase 20 percent over the previous season.
Mexican avocados and other produce crossing through South Texas – grossing about $4400 to New York City.
North Dakota/Minnesota Potatoes
Big Lake, MN red potato shipments are pretty much finished, while loadings out of Long Prairie, MN should continue for another two weeks….Both of these areas annually serve as a prelude to the largest growing and shipping area in the country. That would be just to the west in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota. This marks the 20th year since this writer first visited these northern plains, which has the most beautiful, black soil for growing non-irrigated red potatoes anywhere. The only thing better than the soil in the Red River Valley are the people – they are great, hard working, honest and friendly!
The Red River Valley is expecting normal, or at least fairly close to normal shipments this season. The harvest has just started and will continue through October, if not going into November, depending upon the first heavy frost. This is when volume shipments pick up.
Big Lake, MN red potatoes – grossing about $3000 to Dallas.
At least for some shippers in the Red River Valley, it was looking a little dim in September due to drought. However, October rains have increased yields — and loading opportunities have improved for those who haul red potatoes out of the region, located on the borders of North Dakota and Minnesota.
The last of the spuds are now being dug. It’s looking like valley potato shipments for the 2012-13 season will be quite close to the five-year average. Currently, only about 250 truckloads a week or being shipped, but loadings are still increasing as the focus moves from harvest, and storage to shipping.
From central Wisconsin, russet potato loads are averaging around 500 truckloads per week…..Peak shipments of cranberries for the Thanksgiving holidays are now underway from central Wisconsin.
Nebraska continues light loadings of potatoes. In the southwestern part of the state potatoes are being shipped from the Imperial, Neb area. The other most active part of the state is around O’Neill in the northeastern part of the Nebraska.
In the Lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, grapefruit and orange shipments have been slowly ramping up. Because California’s season ended early, there’s been good demand for Texas citrus, although loadings have been limited and there’s not much citrus yet to be found in the retail stores.
If you are loading grapefruit or oranges in South Texas, it should be a little more simple than 20 years ago when there were at least two dozen citrus companies. That number has shank to only four, primarily due to mergers and acquisitions. This should be reducing the number pick ups required for some hauls.
Central Wisconsin potatoes – grossing about $3400 to Houston.
Red River Valley red potatoes – about $4300 to Orlando.
Recent rains in the Red River Valley of eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota has helped the harvest due to badly needed moisture in the soil for digging operations. About 150 truck loads of potatoes was shipped last week and should be increasing in the weeks ahead.
Russet potato shipments are increasing from Central portions of Wisconsin. During the past week around 500 truck loads of potatoes were being trucked to various markets. There also are loadings of cranberries from Central Wisconsin, as well as cabbage from the Southeastern portions of the state.
Only about 25 percent of the Wisconsin potato volume is being shipped out of Nebraska. Most product is originating out out of the southwestern and the northeastern portions of the Cornhusker state.
In the Northeastern area of Colorado, there are moderate shipments of storage onions.
Michigan normally is shipping a lot more apples this time of the year, but a devastating freeze about six months ago has drastically reduced volume. There is light volume with potatoes, but the focus continues to be harvesting spuds for storage. Potato shipments should significantly increase in November.
Texas cabbage shipments are occuring from the Winter Garden District, just south of San Antonio. In another month shipments of grapefruit and oranges should be increasing out of the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas.
Central Wisconsin potatoes – grossing about $2500 to Atlanta.
Grand Forks, ND potatoes – about
Colorado potatoes – about $4000 to New York City.
There will be a half dozen fresh potato shippers up and running in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota by the end of this week. That is a few more than typically run in mid-September, but with an early wrap-up in Big Lake, MN, demand is quickly shifting to the Red River Valley. Cooler temperatures this week should speed the harvest even more.
In North Carolina, the earliest shipping of cured sweet potatoes got underway September 17 from the new crop. However, some shippers will be shipping the old sweet potato crop through September….North Carolina leads the nation in sweet potato volume, which comes off of 64,000 acres from various parts of the state.
Sweet onions from Peru are arriving at various USA ports. Arrival of asparagus from Peru also are occurring, and should peak between now and into October.
Washington state is now shipping its second largest apple crop on record, estimated to be nearly 109 million boxes.
In California, pomegrante shipments are underway. It joins a host of more common produce items ranging from table grapes and stone fruit in the San Joaquin Valley, to veggies from the Salinas area…..The Santa Maria district is shipping a wide variety of berries and vegetables, although not in the volume found around Salinas. Freight rates fromt he Santa Maria district have risen slightly, while most other areas of the state are showing much change in rates, indicating adequate truck supplies.
Salinas Valley produce – grossing about $7200 to New York City.
Washington state fruit – about $4000 to Dallas.
Eastern North Carolina sweet potatoes – about $2250 to Chicago.
He’s still running over the road, but he takes off a couple of months each year, raised five kids, and still enjoys what he is doing.
The resident of Grand Forks, ND began trucking at age 26. Until seven years ago when he became a driver for Troy Pecka Inc. of East Grand Forks, MN, he was an owner operator. Now 65, Duane doesn’t want to work as hard, pretty much selects his hauls, and still does his share of trucking. Yet, he usually takes off around January and February each year and relaxes in Arizona.
“I owned a truck for 25 years. I really enjoyed it. I paid for every truck I bought and I can’t complain. I had five boys and one girl and most of them went to college. I don’t have a lot of money left, but I accomplished that anyway,” he says in a modest, soft spoken voice.
“All my kids are grown and they are doing pretty darned good,” he says. The only kid involved in trucking is a son with a couple of trucks that run locally for a business his son owns.
So how does a guy raise give kids, vacation two months year and pretty much set his own driving schedule?
Duane says if you are a produce trucker, you have got to be “connected” and “be careful because a lot of people are out there who won’t pay.” For the young, inexperienced persons entering trucking he suggests relying on the credit and rating services such as the Blue Book and the Red Book. These will give one a good idea of how reputable a company is and show their pay practices.
“When it comes to rejected loads or claims, you sometimes learn as you go. I look my loads over when I’m being loaded. You can telll when the produce is fresh, or if it is ‘iffy’.”
When it is “iffy” with quality or appearance concerns, Duane stresses the need to tell your customer about its condition. It is better the load be “kicked” by the buyer at the loading dock than after you have delivered it to the customer. The shipper may not like what the trucker is telling the customer, but that shipper will also realize the product isn’t what it should be.
Duane says there are a lot of good trucking companies to work for, but that Troy Pecka was an independent trucker himself, plus his father and brother were in trucking.
“Troy understands the whole business. I go (on hauls) when I want to go with his truck, just like it was my own. All he expects is that the truck makes money. There are five or six guys my age that work for him and he wouldn’t have it any other way. He knows when you leave with a load it is going to get there,” Duane says.
Duane actually leased his own truck to Troy Pecka Trucking for four years, before selling it and becoming a company driver.
He is now driving a 2007 Kenworth T-600 with a C-13 Cat engine with 475 h.p., pulling a Great Dane trailer.
Duane has nothing but praise for the Great Dane, saying “you pay for what you get.” He cites the Dane’s heavy insallation and sturdy floors, noting some cheaper brands of trailers “are throw aways” because they are not built as well.
“I haul quite a bit of produce,” Duane relates. “I’ve hauled everything you can possibly imagine. We do haul some frozen items. I haul a lot of raw (fresh) potatoes out of the Red River Valley.” However, he also hauls everything from watermelons to lettuce, cabbage and other vegetables and citrus out of South Texas.
“I’ve always hauled a lot of produce and always made a living at it,” he states.
That’s pretty obvious, having raised five good children and vacationing in Arizona during part of the winter.
Britton Transport Inc., a U.S. subsidiary of Bison Transport Inc., announced today the acquisition of Scott’s Express Inc. and Scott’s Transportation Services Inc. (collectively “Scott’s), located in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Scott’s was established in 1952 and is a nationwide trucking and truck brokerage company, specializing in Agribusiness throughout the United States and parts of Canada.
“The acquisition of Scott’s expands and builds upon Britton’s customer relationships and capabilities as a logistics service provider in the Red River Valley,” said Dave Britton, President of Britton. “Scott’s has a long tradition of service excellence among agricultural shippers within the valley and will continue to service its customers with Britton’s support. We are excited about the opportunity to serve Scott’s long-term customers with Britton’s asset-based capabilities.”
Brad Seymour, President of Scott’s, will continue with the company in the transition of ownership and servicing of Scott’s customers. He says, “I have known Dave Britton for over 25 years and have a high regard for the way Britton does business. We are very pleased to be joining forces with Britton and I feel it gives our employees and our customers a platform to grow in the years ahead.”
Founded in 1952, Scott’s was initially operated as a filling station but soon after Archie Scott identified a need for sourcing trucks on behalf of local potato farmers. What started as a sideline became the first truck brokerage in the Red River Valley. Today, Scott’s continues to service the potato and specialty crop sector with superior service and an unmatched reputation.
Financial details concerning this transaction have not been disclosed.
(This story appeared 8/28/12 in Potato Bytes, the online publication of the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association)