US potato farmers grew nearly 20 million tonnes of the crop in 2023, a jump of 9% from last year and the first time since 2017 that production increased for America’s most widely consumed vegetable.
The surfeit of spuds has ramped up supplies and eased prices for food manufacturers. Gro’s Commodities Tracker, which predicts the six-month supply risk for crops in the world’s major producing regions, shows the US is at a “Low” Supply Risk Level for potatoes, meaning the commodity is well supplied and price is not expected to increase significantly.
Meanwhile, average producer prices for potatoes have dropped sharply since July and are currently down by more than 50% from a year earlier, as seen in this Commodities Tracker display.
With prices lower, supermarket discounts on frozen french fries, largely absent during the COVID pandemic, have reappeared. And a major fast food chain is offering a “Free Fries Friday” promotion through the end of the year.
Behind the abundance of tubers: Farmers increased their 2023 potato acreage in Idaho, Colorado, and North Dakota, boosting total area planted to potatoes by 3.3% from a year earlier, as this Gro display shows.
Growing conditions also favored higher potato yields. In Idaho, which accounts for about one-third of total US production, Gro Drought Index readings this season were down significantly from the previous year, and soil moisture levels rose, as seen in this display from Gro’s Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture, weighted for Idaho’s potato growing areas.
As a result, potato yields in Idaho rose by 5% from a year earlier to 717 bushels per acre. In Washington, the No. 2 producing state, potato yields were up 6% to 1,025 bu/acre.
The US is among the world’s top five potato producing and exporting countries, with most of the harvest going to food manufacturers for use in french fries, chips, dehydrated potatoes, and other products.
The year’s bigger potato crop also has contributed to greater US exports, which are up 6% year to date compared to a year earlier. Top markets include Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Taiwan.
Meanwhile, this year’s potato imports slowed in the July-September period — when they were down 20% from a year earlier — although imports are up 10% year to date. In 2022, US potato imports hit a record high, with shipments from Canada, the main supplier, at 36% above the previous five-year average. The US typically imports less than half a million tonnes of potatoes a year.
Canadian 2023 potato production is estimated to be slightly above last year’s record, despite higher drought levels in the big prairie producing provinces of Alberta and Manitoba, as measured by the Gro Drought Index, which can be seen in this Climate Risk Navigator display.