Politics

Idaho Potato Shortage Obvious on Produce Shelves, Spud Farmers Now Know What They Need to Do


In a delicious example of irony, Idaho — unofficially known as the Potato State — is experiencing a shortage of potatoes.

The tuber tumult in the Gem State, Idaho’s official nickname, is the result of last summer’s scorching temperatures that resulted in farmers producing fewer potatoes.

“I’m not sure if you remember last June [2021], but we had some just unbelievably hot temperatures here in Idaho,” Jamey Higham said, president and CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission, as reported by Boise State Public Radio.

The extreme heat was not good for overall production of the popular root vegetable.

“It did a number on our potato crop,” Higham said. “And so, our yields were significantly down last year.”

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That means shoppers may be noticing fewer spuds on grocery store shelves.

It’s a blow to a state long known as America’s top producer of potatoes. (For cryin’ out loud, the state is home to the Idaho Potato Museum. Really.)

Higham went on to explain the current dearth of the versatile starchy vegetable is the result of last year’s shortage combined with the fact this year’s harvest hasn’t come in yet.

But don’t call it a gap.

Will the shortage get worse?

“There is not a gap,” Higham said. “There are just less potatoes being shipped right now than there normally are this time of year because of the shorter supply that we started the season with.”

Fewer potatoes translates into higher prices, at least for now.

“As we get down to the end, there are very strong prices out there right now and potatoes are still supply-and-demand,” Higham explained. “And when the supply is lower, the prices go up and it will probably stay that way.”

More expensive potatoes are a reality for the time being, he said, but prices will eventually come down.

“I don’t anticipate these prices staying high long term,” Higham said. “And once harvest gets underway, it’ll get back down into a better spot. But I do expect prices to be strong all year this year.”

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This year’s potato harvest could be coming to the rescue.

“The harvest is starting in Idaho this week,” Higham pointed out. “But it’s not like you’re starting and the pipeline is full. It’s going to take several weeks for us to ramp up. It’ll get better every week, but by after Labor Day, I feel like we’ll be shipping a pretty good amount of potatoes.”

Indications are this year’s potato crop will be a cut above last year’s, in large part because of less extreme heat.

“From test digs that we’ve done, and better weather in general, we are optimistic that we will have a much better crop,” Shawn Boyle, president of the Idaho Grower Shipper Association, told MagicValley.com.

Brett Davis, who earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Western Washington University, has written for newspapers, public policy organizations, a major humanitarian institution and a software company. Brett lives in Federal Way, Washington, just south of Seattle.

Brett Davis, who earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Western Washington University, has written for newspapers, public policy organizations, a major humanitarian institution and a software company. Brett lives in Federal Way, Washington, just south of Seattle.



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