All eyes are on potatoes.
An early freeze and continued cold weather have created a shortage of potatoes in key growing and production areas of the United States and Canada – and that worries the people who make french fries.
As a result of the inclement weather, smaller spuds are being harvested, according to an article in Bloomberg. Companies that make french fries favor longer spuds.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts domestic potato output will drop this year to the lowest level since 2010, according to a Nov. 8 report. In Idaho, the top producer, output is forecast to fall 5.5%, according to Bloomberg.
The USDA report indicated the Michigan market is steady, but spuds from the Great Lakes State are not going to impact the french fry market. Most Michigan potatoes are processed into a product where the length of a potato is less important.
“Michigan does not grow potatoes for french fries,” said Nate Chesher, marketing director for the Michigan Potato Industry Commission in East Lansing. “Michigan grows potatoes to be used as fresh potatoes and potato chips.”
Potato farming is a big business in Michigan, which ranks eighth in the nation for potato production with more than 46,000 acres dedicated to growing potatoes, according to Cultivate Michigan, a campaign of the Michigan Farm to Institution Network.
But potato chips reign.
Michigan is the nation’s No. 1 producer of potato chip potatoes, according to Crain’s Detroit Business. Seventy percent of the 1.87 billion pounds of Michigan’s potato harvest are used to make chips. The potato chip industry brings in more than $550 million to the state’s economy, Crain’s reported.
There are more than 70 potato farms in Michigan, the organization reported, most of which are multigenerational family farms. The overall potato industry in Michigan contributes $1.24 billion to the state’s economy, including more than 3,000 jobs in potato production and processing, according to Cultivate Michigan.