September 11, 2020

Washington potato processors lose $714 million from COVID effects

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the Washington potato industry by approximately $1 billion, according to a study conducted by the IMPACT Center of the School of Economic Sciences.

The Washington State Potato Commission asked IMPACT to conduct the study in order to determine just how badly COVID-19 has harmed potato growers and processors. The vast majority, approximately 90%, of Washington potatoes go to frozen processors. The study also discusses the potential tax impacts on the state and the primary backward links in the supply chain that are negatively affected by the reduction in potato production and processing.

Washington’s potato growers and processors have been adversely affected due to the prolonged restaurant closures and associated fall in demand for their product. The fall in demand has been a shock not only directly for farmers and processors but for all the vendors in their specialized supply chains.

Net impacts from this change in acreage and spending has resulted in $270.4 million in lost productivity to the state. Processors that have seen the demand for products like french fries, hash browns, mashed potatoes, etc., plummet, have had to watch their spending plummet in lockstep. Lost processing activity has resulted in $714.3 million in lost productivity statewide.

“We found this report to be very beneficial to quantify the economic damage from COVID-19 to the state’s potato economy,” said Matt Harris, Director of Governmental Affairs for the Washington State Potato Commission. “It provides key statistics that show just how important potatoes are to our state’s economy and that the value they bring goes far beyond each individual farm.”

In all, farmers have lost roughly $29.2 million dollars from the decline in demand and quality for their 2019 harvest. They have reduced potato acreage for their 2020 growing season by 13%. That loss in acreage amounts to roughly 729,120 tons of potatoes, equivalent to the weight of about 76 Space Needles.

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