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Colorado ahead in to-date shipments over 2008 crop

by Kathleen Thomas Gaspar | January 28, 2010
MONTE VISTA, CO β€” Lower prices nationwide for russet potatoes had slowed movement on other varieties for Colorado shippers, but total shipments as of Jan. 13 were about 10-12 percent above shipments for the same time in 2009.

Jim Ehrlich, executive director of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, told The Produce News that San Luis Valley shippers had moved more than 3,537 loads of spuds in December 2009 compared to 3,425 loads in December 2008. Total loads through December were 11,955, up nearly 2,000 loads over the previous shipping period.

Russets continue to dominate the varietals, making up 86 percent of the crop for 2009. Reds, as noted, dropped in numbers and comprised 2.1 percent of the total, down from 4.3 percent in 2008. Still, that figure is up from 2 percent in 2007. Yellows, which made up 10 percent of the crop in 2008, dropped to 8 percent in 2009.

Most of the loads go to the fresh market, and to-date process loads in December had decreased to 168 in 2009 from just under 300 in 2008. Mr. Ehrlich said that exports to Mexico have been steady and that pest finds have declined.

In research matters, Sastray Jayanty of the Colorado State University Research Center north of Monte Vista is moving ahead with a study on pressure bruising. The project was approved for the National Institute of Food & Agriculture, and Mr. Ehrlich said that findings will benefit the entire potato industry.

He added that the Colorado contingent met with U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers during the Potato Expo held in early January in Orlando, FL.

"Every area brought in their research priorities, and the individual researchers were there," Mr. Ehrlich said. β€œIt was interesting to see what the different priorities are. For our area, it is plant breeding to develop resistance so growers can use fewer chemicals. That would improve our green footprint.”

As growers and shippers continue to implement new technology for improved efficiency at both the farm and shed levels, CPAC is providing workshops explaining Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices. The first series, conducted by Tracy Vanderpool of the Fruit & Vegetable Inspection Service, was presented Jan. 19, according to Mr. Ehrlich.

He noted that Colorado continues to work toward potato seed legislation that would require growers to plant certified seed at least every other year or have their seed tested for specific diseases. The Colorado Seed Potato Act is being introduced by Colorado Sen. Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass) and Colorado Rep. Ed Vigil (D-San Luis).

Mr. Ehrlich said that CPAC will hold its annual election of officers Feb. 9-12 at the San Luis Valley Ag Conference in Alamosa, adding that the committee will not have an annual dinner at that time.

Instead, the committee will host its dinner in conjunction with the National Potato Council summer meeting June 15-18 in Monte Vista, which will be headed by new NPC President Roger Mix, a San Luis Valley grower.

(For more on San Luis Valley potatoes, see the FEb. 1, 2010, issue of The Produce News.)