CENTER, CO -- Anticipating a 25-percent hike in production costs, Jed
Ellithorpe, farm and operations manager of Ponderosa Partnership, sister
company and grower for Aspen Produce potato distributor, told The Produce
News that the operation is maintaining a focus on "good domestic business."
Mr. Ellithorpe said in late December that Aspen Produce "is starting to see
more regional sales in the Rocky Mountain area and the Southwest," and he
added that shipping costs are a primary factor in that uptick.
"Shipping costs dictate where the potatoes go," he said, noting that fuel and
fertilizer will be linchpins in 2011 spud marketing as well.
"The increase is largely due to fertilizer," he said. Mr. Ellithorpe countered
news of economic recovery, saying that agriculture must still contend with
"A booming economy hasn't always helped potato people. When consumers
tighten their purse strings, that generally helps potatoes," he said, adding
that home meal preparation relies more on staples like potatoes during tough
However, Mr. Ellithorpe said that the current situation has not held true even
to that old maxim. "When the economy went sour this time, we didn't see that
as much. So we need to continue to promote potatoes, to educate consumers
on how healthy they are and how economical they are," he said.
Aspen Produce itself is running its normal capacity, although the country is
experiencing a potato shortage. "We will have potatoes through the season,"
Mr. Ellithorpe said that the San Luis Valley experienced "some disappearance
and quality loss due to heat at harvest and also to varieties," but he added
that Aspen has been able to grade out and make No. 1 packs for shipping. "It
is a similar situation to frost damage a few years ago as far as inventory
numbers," he said.
In the sales office of Aspen Produce, Ryan Haynie and Michele Peterson
commented on movement, with Mr. Haynie saying that exports to Mexico
depend "on growers and if they want to deal with the added procedures"
necessary for shipments to that country. "We are getting a premium price for
exports now," he said.
Mr. Haynie also referenced a new variety that Aspen/Ponderosa research and
development is working on specifically for the Mexican market's preference
for white-fleshed spuds.
"We should have commercial volume in 2011," he said.
Ms. Peterson said she was seeing good movement domestically. "The stripper
market is strong now," she said in the weeks after Christmas.