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L&M’s Idaho potato program holds steady

“Our deal is pretty much the status quo as last year,” Les Alderete, director of grower relations in the Idaho Falls, ID, L&M Cos. Inc. office, told The Produce News regarding the company’s involvement in the Idaho potato deal.

L&M, a diversified produce growing, shipping and marketing organization headquartered in Raleigh, NC, markets potatoes of various types from several growing areas around the country — from Washington state to Florida.

Idaho product is an important component of that commodity mix, according to Mr. Alderete.

“We need to be in Idaho to have a full program,” he said. “You’ve got to have Idaho and the other states. [We] use the two together when [we] go to retailers,” using Idaho as the “premium product” and potatoes from other states for “price points.”

For that reason, “we’ll always have a presence in Idaho,” he went on to say.

L&M has marketing agreements with “a few different people” in Idaho and also has contracts with potato growers and packers in other areas outside Idaho in order to give the company “a full marketing program,” Mr. Alderete said.

“We will have some product packed in our label, and we will have some packed in our customers’ labels,” he said.

“We are not brokering” in Idaho. “We try not to be a broker,” but rather to “stay more in the marketing end,” Mr. Alderete said.

L&M services “retail, wholesale and foodservice” customers throughout the United States, he noted.

The Idaho Russet Norkotah harvest was underway when The Produce News talked with Mr. Alderete Sept. 2.

“The crop has been delayed,” he said. “Everyone’s crop has been delayed.”

It appeared that “the size may be fine” on the Norkotahs,, he continued. “The yields may be off a little bit, but they will have good size.”

However, “looking at some of the Burbanks and talking with different growers,” it was apparent that “the Burbanks need a little extra time … to bulk up.”

The question was whether “Mother Nature will give them the extra time.” Otherwise, “they look good,” Mr. Alderete said.

Other than getting a slow start because of cool spring weather, “They haven’t been stressed or anything this year.” The weather “has been good for them” since then, so “if they can finish out,” the Burbank harvest could be similar to that of 2010.

An early frost could change that, he noted, “but if we don’t have an early frost, I think we will have a crop that is going to be almost like last year.”

Mr. Alderete said that he expects “very good quality ... and good availability” from Idaho this year.