Prince Edward Island
By Alex Docherty – Chairman, Prince Edward Island Potato Board
Challenges and opportunities are ahead for efforts to market the 2015 crop at a level growers need for a good return on investment. In Prince Edward Island, our production was actually down 1.5 per cent from 2014 due to variable yields across the province; however, good yields and increases in volume in the east, particularly Quebec, New Brunswick and Maine, will add to the challenges for P.E.I. producers.
Early export movement has helped Island disposition to keep pace with 2014 numbers despite slower movement to North America, and as the market outlook panel we hosted during our annual meeting in late November advised, patience will be required in order to market our 2015 crop at the best possible price points.
Bruce Huffaker of the North American Potato Market News noted that the U.S. tablestock supply is actually down from 2014, and that should enable higher prices than was the case for the 2014 U.S. fresh crop. On the seed side, post-harvest test results are coming back and as of mid-December overall seed quality looked very good for 2016 planting.
The P.E.I. potato disinfection service has been in the news lately as a result of the provincial government’s decision to cut their contribution to this program. The Province had continued to offer disinfection services as a precautionary measure after concentrated efforts by Island growers, industry and government to eradicate bacterial ring rot were largely successful. A recent review of the program identified that some disinfection activities in the commercial potato movement area were no longer necessary for disease control purposes.
The P.E.I. Potato Board is currently working on a program so that industry will have facilities for the disinfection of trucks moving seed, equipment moving between farms, and annual seed facility disinfection activities. This will be similar to the way disinfection for regulatory purposes is handled in the rest of Canada. Disinfection services for particular situations such as potato wart control will continue to be carried out by the provincial government in P.E.I.
Meeting season will be in full swing in the New Year. Island growers will be attending information sessions and trade shows as well as updating necessary certification qualification for themselves and their staff for the 2016 season.
By Louis Ouellette – Market Information Co-ordinator, Potatoes New Brunswick
Another growing season has come and gone with many growers in New Brunswick being extremely pleased with the yield and quality of this year’s potato crop.
The harvest period started with a very warm month of September. Heavy rains during the last few days of September pushed harvest back for many until late October but thankfully the weather co-operated for a successful harvest.
This past season was not a repeat of 2014, which saw a significant divide in yields between the northern and southern areas of the New Brunswick potato belt.
Close to record yields were harvested by many growers in 2015, with a few producers having to deal with the issue of where to put all of the extra spuds.
The late September rains have caused some isolated warehouse issues for a small number of growers and are being managed by these growers as needed.
The quality and grade of the 2015 crop is very good to excellent, and this trend is expected throughout the remaining storage season.
Regarding the 2015 seed crop, early indications were that growers were seeing very low potato virus Y levels, with the grade and quality being very good to excellent.
Mark your calendars for the annual Potatoes New Brunswick Potato Conference and Trade Show being held Feb. 4, 2016. For details, call 506-473-3036 or visit potatoesnb.com.
By Clement Lalancette – General Manager, Federation des Producteurs de Pommes de Terre du Quebec
We had very good growing conditions in Quebec this summer, followed by a nice fall. The yields were exceptional with very good quality and no major issues. In fact, some producers had to leave a portion of this year’s crop unharvested because their warehouses were full.
We estimate that the production is about 15 per cent higher than last year, with the biggest increase concentrated in the french fry processing sector. Unfortunately, all of these potatoes put a lot of pressure on the price. It’s expected the marketing season will be very challenging.
The first inventory report in November indicated that the shipping pace was very strong in the fall, with more than 400,000 hundredweight of potatoes sold than usual. The report also showed some open potatoes had found a market, especially in processing.
By Peter VanderZaag – Owner, Sunrise Potato Storage
El Niño provided Ontario with exceptionally warm and relatively dry weather from August until mid-December. This resulted in excellent end of season growing and harvest conditions. Yields were a little below that of 2014 but the crop quality has been excellent, with little in the way of storage problems. The good weather also enabled growers to accomplish much additional fieldwork to help prepare for 2016.
As of mid-December, market demand was steady for chip stock while there was downward pressure on table stock, largely because of supply from other provinces.
Dr. Eugenia Banks, our potato specialist with the Ontario government, has announced her resignation as of the end of 2015.
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has changed the role of this position to that of a broader vegetable crops specialist for the province. So here in Ontario, we are at the end of an era, not only because we were so fortunate to have such high-quality individuals like Eugenia and before her, Sam Squire, serve potato farmers so effectively, but also that support from provincial government for our industry is in effect being reduced with the change in the position.
Eugenia will be greatly missed, but she is not going away. She will organize the Ontario Potato Conference, scheduled for March 1, 2016 at the Delta Hotel in Guelph, Ont. I am also certain that she will be involved on other potato activities during 2016!
The Ontario Potato Board held a successful annual meeting on Dec. 3.
By Dan Sawatzky – General Manager, Keystone Potato Producers Association
As indicated in our last Eye on the Nation report, Manitoba potato producers generally benefitted from more favourable growing conditions over the past year, not only with an early start but also with an extended frost-free fall. Harvest was also more efficient with fewer rain delays and drier harvest conditions, which allowed producers to wrap up digging in a timely manner and finish by early October.
This resulted in better product going into storage and less early breakdown experienced. Above average temperatures following harvest through mid-December were helpful in drawing in fresh air, providing dry air to address potential storage issues.
Overall crop quality is better and yield continues its upward trend with three consecutive years of average yields above 300 hundredweight per acre. Process volume is balanced with production contracts, leaving some surplus available to cover shortages. Fresh production yields were also higher. Exceptions to yield and quality were found on the higher than usual number of fields that experienced some hail during the growing season, resulting in stress-related quality issues in their crops.
Crop usage has been steady with very little processing plant downtime. Sprout inhibition treatment is basically complete in preparation for long-term storage.
Winter provides time for meetings such as Manitoba Potato Production Days that brings growers, speakers and suppliers together in Brandon, Man. from Jan.26 to 28. Check out mbpotatodays.ca for details.
The winter season also allows time to focus on the past year’s research activity and plan for future work. We are excited to announce the hiring of Oscar Molina under a provincial Growing Forward 2 project to work in the province as an applied research agronomist. We look to him to help direct our research efforts within Manitoba.
Our industry is poised to thrive in the new climate that we are finding ourselves in.
By Desseri Ackerman – Manager, Saskatchewan Seed Potato Growers Association
The 2015 potato harvest in Saskatchewan was good. Growers were able to work late into the fall as the weather co-operated. Growers reported good to excellent quality, with low disease levels and no late blight, as well as above average yields. Seed potatoes are clean and there had been no storage problems as of mid-December.
Inspired by 2014’s Potato Month campaign, the Saskatchewan Seed Potato Growers Association is planning a promotional effort for February 2016. The campaign will focus on potato nutrition and cooking use.
By Terence Hochstein – Executive Director, Potato Growers of Alberta
Alberta’s processing crop turned into one of the highest yielding crops in recent memory. Growers left more than 2,600 acres of chippers and fry potatoes in the ground, as there wasn’t sufficient storage space or the market for the excellent yields that occurred. As it is, we will still have a rather large surplus that will need to be dealt with in some fashion or another.
Our seed crop turned out a lot better than expected as well. Many areas in the province had little to no moisture after June, yet the resiliency of the potato crop was huge as many growers had rather respectable yields. There will also be some extra seed, without a market, in this sector as well. Growers are being encouraged to grade out hard before shipping in the spring.
Our fresh acres continue to grow each year and there is a huge opportunity for anyone that wants to get involved in this sector in Alberta.
Overall, most growers are looking forward to 2016 with guarded optimism, as it is still too soon to see how the potato industry will be affected by Bill 6, the Alberta government’s proposed farm safety legislation, and the province’s new carbon tax. Stay tuned….