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Colorado potatoes have strong outlook

potatProduction and marketing are both in positive places for the Colorado potato industry. Jim Ehrlich, the executive director of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, said June 24 that the 2020 crop “looks really, really good. It has been extremely dry and warmer than normal. But the crop is growing really well.”

Some parts of Colorado’s potato growing area suffered a June 6 hailstorm, “but that came back really well.”

As Americans were homebound with the COVID-19 lockdown in March and April, they responded by buying a lot of fresh potatoes for home-cooked meals, Ehrlich said. Thus, Colorado potato storages emptied at a rate 40 percent faster than normal.

“It was a pleasant surprise how the demand for fresh potatoes rose when people were eating at home and enjoying potatoes. We hope that trend continues,” he said.

By late June, as foodservice operators begin to reopen “we’re optimistic about how the country might rebound,” Ehrlich said.

Between March 1 and June 24, the area had received less than an inch of rain, putting it in the “extreme drought” category. This, of course, has required a great deal of irrigation. “Our water situation is tenuous” and the region’s aquifer is being “substantially” lowered this summer.

“We’re looking forward to the new harvest in September and a good crop,” he said.

Ehrlich added that multiple workers in only one Colorado potato shed faced a COVID-19 spread. Potato operators have been diligent in managing the virus, but Ehrlich indicated the largest problem has been workers contracting the disease after hours and then bringing it to work.

After fighting COVID-19 from March into May, “people here in Colorado are fatigued. We are over it” and ready to move ahead to normalcy, Ehrlich noted.

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