Chris Voigt, executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission, encourages domestic retailers to secure their spud supplies as soon as possible. His sage words are directly tied to the fact that the Evergreen State is seeing increases in export volume.
"Washington is the first state to harvest the fall crop. So we've been shipping fresh potatoes since the beginning of August," he told The Produce News Nov. 1. "We've movedabout 35 percent of our crop and should be able to meet the needs of our customers. But I'd encourage buyers to secure their supplies of Washington potatoes soon, if they haven't already. We are experiencing strong demand from our export markets."
Washington typically exports 10 percent of its fresh crop, "but we're seeing strong growth in our export markets and expect more potatoes to be exported this year than ever before," he commented.
According to Mr. Voigt, fresh potatoes for chipping have experienced exceptional growth in recent years. "Japan and Korea have greatly expanded their purchases of these potatoes," he noted. "We are also seeing continued purchases of fresh table stock potatoes in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mexico and Canada. Vietnam has been a recent addition that is showing great growth, and new access to the market in the Philippines might be a possibility."
As far as the size and condition of this year's potato crop, "volumes are down from last year," he said. "The cool spring and hot summer took the top off the yields but gave us great quality. The size profile is well distributed, which will provide plenty of cartons for our larger-size packs and ample smaller potatoes for our consumer packs."
On other fronts, Mr. Voigt said the commission is taking a proactive stance in the area of grower relations, hiring a full-time staff member dedicated to helping growers navigate through the complexities of various food-safety and sustainability audits. "I believe we are the only potato organization that has made this a priority," he stated. "Raina Spence is our industry outreach director who will take on these tasks for the Washington potato industry."
Ryan Holterhoff, director of marketing and industry affairs, said the commission has launched its revamped website. "The site provides a fresh look to www.potatoes.com and provides an easy set of navigation tabs that will allow visitors to quickly find what they need," he stated. "Some of the highlights of the new site include convenient access to everything from information about research projects to nutritional facts about Washington potatoes. In the recipe section, you can search for potato-based dishes in a variety of ways, including by cooking time, budget and which meal you are preparing."
The launch also incorporates increased social networking opportunities for promotional and educational programs. "In addition to the Facebook community, which we have already been actively a part of, we will now be able to connect with users via Twitter and Pinterest. We feel these interactive platforms will allow us to further help keep people connected to Washington state potatoes."