Pivoting For Idaho Potato Industry Not Over, Muir Says

When the pandemic started to impact the U.S. and global economies, one of the commodities that felt the brunt of the economic impact first was the potato industry. With restaurants and schools closed across the globe, demand plummeted, meaning many contracts went up in smoke. The Idaho Potato industry, like many others, worked around the clock to pivot their business model, ensuring many of those spuds would find a new home.

“In some ways it was shocking because retailers weren’t necessarily set up to start bringing in cartons, they were typically bringing in loose pack or brining in bags,” said Idaho Potato Commission President and CEO Frank Muir. “So kudos to the produce industry for responding quickly to the programs that we put together.  We had to move very quickly, because obviously the concern was prices would just drop because there would be no food service market.”

Muir says as 2020 comes to a close, many Idaho potato growers are faring much better than was to be expected back in March and April. Speaking of pivoting, Muir says going forward the potato industry, and really the Ag industry as a whole needs to look at focusing more attention on a drive thru or pick up environment.

“This isn’t going to be a short-term issue.  Consumers have changed as a result of this pandemic and we’re seeing it in a lot of different ways and we’re adjusting our programs to accommodate that.”

This year, Idaho potato growers, harvested 296,000 acres which is slightly down from 2019 figures. While tonnage may be down a bit, Muir noted this year’s crop looks excellent, and consumers will be happy.

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