Wholesale prices in NJ have been below average since the start of the harvest season, due to an abundance of product regionally and nationally, and overall good growing conditions. There is uncertainty as to whether market prices will rebound as the season progresses or not. Moisture conditions vary, with some areas unusually dry, while others have had adequate rainfall.
Consumer demand for CSA shares and direct sales remains high following 2020’s surge.
In Western NY, pea harvest is already underway. Yields are generally good, and hot weather has accelerated timing. Processing buyers have had to raise pricing for some vegetables to compete with cash field crops. Some growers are concerned about the elimination of the USDA Food Box program, which contributed to product movement significantly last year. Crops look good so far, assuming the grower has adequate irrigation. In NJ, processed vegetable growers should have a good season as growing conditions are favorable and yield is expected to be above average, assuming minimal summer storm damage. Prices are generally contracted before the season begins, so there is less market fluctuation.
The 2021 Maine crop was planted earlier than normal for most growers thanks to an early spring and favorable planting conditions throughout May. Most processing growers finished planting on or about Memorial Day weekend, a week ahead of normal. Some seed and tablestock growers, who don’t need the same length of season, finished planting in the first week of June, which is about average. Growing conditions since planting have also been very favorable, with an early dry period and adequate heat and sunshine to allow for timely field work and cultivation. Recent rains have replenished soil moisture and aided crop development, about two weeks ahead of normal at this time. The crops look excellent and are in much better condition than at this point last year.
Market conditions for all segments of the potato industry appear to be favorable at the present time. Seed demand for the 2020 crop was very strong and appears to be strong going into the 2021 crop year, as some growers are already lining up seed supplies for 2022. Processing usage continues to rebound from the reductions in some products caused by the pandemic. Both french fry and chipstock usage have accelerated in recent months to the point that usage rates are breaking previous records.
Potato acreage across the United States is projected to have increased by about 22,000 acres, or 2.4%, for the 2021 crop year. The acreage increase is led mainly by expanding processing contracts in Washington, Idaho and Maine. Maine acreage is projected to be about 5,000 acres higher to 56,000 acres, which will be the highest since 2013 and an increase of nearly 10% from 2020. All three of the significant Maine processors, McCain, Penobscot McCrum and Michaels Foods appears to be interested in contracting more potatoes during 2021. It is also expected that chipstock production will be at or slightly above the previous year.