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Paul Dolan: Red potatoes have seen slow seasonal starts

"It seems like the last couple of years, the red deal has lost a little bit of ground early on due to heavy russet movement," said red potato grower- packer-shipper Paul Dolan, manager of Associated Potato Growers Inc., which has offices and warehouses in Grand Forks, ND.

Mr. Dolan believes that slow shipping starts for red potatoes from the Red River Valley are due not only to large early shipments of russet potatoes but also to the economy, as buyers are “trying to find a cheaper product early-on in our marketing season,” he said. “We haven't had the movement in October, November and December over the last couple [of] years that we are accustomed to having. But we have been making it up. Overall movement this year is a little better than last year out of the [Red River] Valley, so that is encouraging.”

He continued, “I think overall the valley is going to finish up earlier than normal this year because other areas had problems with reds. I am thinking January and February will be good months for us.”

Looking forward regarding the national potato marketing scene, he said, “Hopefully, I guess in the whole picture of potatoes, we will hold acres in check so we don’t over-produce in the next year.”

He told The Produce News Dec. 23 that “business has picked up the last week to 10 days. It was really slow after Thanksgiving,” he emphasized. “It was really slow. I think we will be OK from here out. We are real close to being on schedule from what I forecasted. Quality continues to be all right. We will ship to mid- to the end of May.”

Mr. Dolan said that red prices were holding around $15 per hundredweight. “We are optimistic that going forward into January, we may be able to increase the price a little bit.”

Mr. Dolan concluded that Associated’s volume this year would be down 10 percent from the 2009 crop. As of Dec. 23, the company had shipped about one-third of its 2010 crop.