Potato growers across the country are seeing retail sales skyrocket but food service sales plummet as COVID-19 impacts the food supply chain.

After struggling to meet demand before coronavirus, weekly retail potato sales have increased roughly 65% said John Toaspern, vice president of marketing at Potatoes USA. “Retail has exploded,” Toaspern told Agri-Pulse.

The increase is positive for producers, but Toaspern said he has heard of 80% to 90% reduction in food service shipments. Over 50% of all U.S. potatoes go to food service. 

“That has had a real domino effect back into the industry in terms of the processors having nowhere to move the frozen fries that they have made and not being able to accept more potatoes,” Toaspern said.

Changing from food service to retail can be challenging because each sector requires a different size profile of potatoes. He said the size profile most consumers prefer is smaller than what food service prefers. “In a five-pound bag, they would rather have eight or nine, 5 ounce to 6 ounce potatoes rather than three or four giant potatoes,” Toaspern said.

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