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Potato deal ‘fluid’ going into new season, H.R. Bushman says

Noting a “fluid” potato market in late August as harvest of the 2011 potato crop was getting underway in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, H.R. Bushman Corp. Sales Manager Sal Pupillo said conditions will naturally change when the spuds are out of the fields and in storage.

From his office in St. Louis, Mr. Pupillo said on Aug. 30, “As soon as we get into storage, supply and demand take over.”

He said that Bushman has started moving northern Colorado potatoes, and he said that in the fluctuating market cartons “seem to be holding their own.”

Working in tandem with the Golden, CO, Bushman office and partner Tonya McCormick, Mr. Pupillo addressed this year’s crop and looked at issues such as increased plantings in some regions and crop shortages in other potato-growing areas.

“A big part of our job is to provide retail with product they can buy,” Mr. Pupillo said. “Short or long, we source the whole country for our customers, so [acreage or crop shortage in one area] doesn’t really affect us.”

He went on to say that more potatoes in the ground “don’t mean much until after harvest” and supply-demand is established.

“I do hear sizes will be a little smaller this year,” he said, but Mr. Pupillo said that the potatoes could size up during the last weeks prior to harvest.

The company moves all varieties from every growing region in the country, and Mr. Pupillo said he has seen increased demand for yellows in recent years.

In addressing transportation, he said rising costs have made it increasingly difficult to source trucks. “There are fewer independents every year,” he said. “Many of the independents have leased on to bigger companies to cover their own costs.”

The longtime produce broker-receiver also commented on food-safety regulations his operation follows, saying, “We have to stay in close contact with our shippers. We are set up so we can go back on short notice and get the trace-back information.”

Mr. Pupillo said, “We try to stay one step ahead of regulations, and we have to read between the lines. I personally think [regulations] are one of the best things to come along in my lifetime. If we’re able to answer questions fully and fast, people are more secure in buying product.”