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McCain Food Breaks Ground for Expansion of New Brunswick Potato Processing Plant

Management at McCain Foods and invited guests officially broke ground Monday, Oct. 3 to mark the start of construction on the major expansion to its French fry plant in Florenceville-Bristol. The 32,000 square foot expansion housing a new production line with state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment and technology will allow the company to meet the growing demands for hash browns and other specialty potato products with their retail and foodservice customers across North America. The company expects the new line to begin production in August 2017.

New Initiative Designed to Boost Yields and Profits for P.E.I. Process Growers

The P.E.I. government, P.E.I. Potato Board, Cavendish Farms and its process growers have all teamed up for a new three-year initiative designed to increase yields and profits. Money has been earmarked to do targeted research to improve yields on the Island and at the same time protect the environment. Potato board officials say yields on the Island for process growers haven’t been increasing the way they have been in some other parts of North America. The project will also ensure all that information gets to growers in a timely manner. About $180,000 has been set aside each year for the project for the next three years. If successful, the work could move beyond that period. Some research projects are already underway, while others will be developed later this year.

Cambodia Opens First Potato Research Centre

With potato consumption continuing to rise in Cambodia, that country’s Agriculture Ministry has unveiled a $200,000 (U.S.) research centre it hopes will research and develop potato varieties most suited to the country. The demand for potatoes in Cambodia is growing year-on-year, not only due to demand from foreign tourists, but also local people. The centre was built in collaboration with the Korean Project of International Agriculture (KOPIA), the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), and the Ministry of Rural Development. The first project for the centre will be to conduct research on growing potatoes in Mondulkiri province, where the climate and soil is most likely to be best for growing the crop.

FDA Launches New Nutrition Facts Label for Potatoes

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released revisions to the Nutrition Facts label, which has graced the back of packaged foods for more than 20 years. The new label requirements are mostly good news for potatoes, especially the required inclusion of potassium, which will increase awareness of this important nutrient and highlight the content of potatoes (relative to other foods in particular). The FDA has made adjustments to its recommended Daily Values (DVs) of many nutrients, including several that appear on the potato nutrition label. Although none of the changes impacts the “claims” that can be made in terms of “a good or excellent source of”, any call-outs on packaging will need to be adjusted to reflect these new DV percentages. Most food manufacturers will be required to use the new label by July 26, 2018. Manufacturers with less than USD$10m in annual food sales will have an additional year to comply with the new rules.

India Cuts Import Duty on Potatoes

The government of India has cut import duty on wheat, potatoes, and crude and refined palm oils ahead of the festival season to ensure prices remain under check. On Sept. 23, the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) issued notification to cut import duty on potatoes to 10 per cent from 30 per cent until October 2016. Import duty on wheat has been lowered to 10 per cent from 25 per cent until February 2017. Import duty on crude palm oil of edible grade has been lowered to 7.5 per cent from 12.5 per cent, while for refined palm oil of edible grade it has come down to 15 per cent from 20 per cent. Import duty on wheat has been lowered despite higher domestic production at 93.50 million tonnes in the 2015-16 crop year (July-June). The food ministry suggested the duty cut because procurement dropped to 22.9 million tonnes despite high production. Wholesale inflation in wheat has risen marginally to 7.27 per cent in August from 5.89 per cent in March. In the case of potatoes, inflation was running at 66.7 per cent, prompting the reduction in import duty. Potato output fell to 43.7 million tonnes in 2015-16 crop year from 48 million tonnes last year.

Lamb Weston Chooses Idaho

Lamb Weston has selected a suburb of Boise for its corporate headquarters, but the Columbia Basin is still a winner as the frozen potato giant moves toward independence from its Chicago-based parent, ConAgra Foods. Lamb Weston will become a standalone, publicly traded company sometime this fall. When that happens, Lamb Weston will instantly become one of the Northwest’s largest private companies. Its 2015 revenue of $2.9 billion would have ranked Lamb Weston at the time at about 750th on the Fortune 1000 list of America’s largest companies. ConAgra announced it would spin off Lamb Weston more than a year ago with a target of completing the transaction by this fall. Lamb Weston is expected to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol LW. It will make its first public appearance during an investor day program Oct. 13 in New York City.


Breakthrough “Spud” Offers Canadians Important Health Benefits

Health-conscious food lovers now have more choice in the produce aisles, with the arrival of the Carisma potato from EarthFresh Farms. New to Canada and Ontario-grown, Carisma has been found to have a lower glycemic response (GR), meaning it does not cause the rapid spike in blood sugar that normally comes from eating carbohydrate-rich foods. Farmed from traditional seed and without the use of biotechnology, this non-GMO potato is a desirable choice for those seeking to control blood sugar levels, including people with (or at risk of) diabetes, athletes and those looking to lose or control body weight. As consumer trends move toward a more balanced approach to nutrition and diet, Canadians are still set against a backdrop of towering obesity and type 2 diabetes rates across the country. Choosing foods that elicit a lower glycemic response, as part of an overall healthy dietary pattern, is an important piece of the healthy living equation. For years now, the award-winning Carisma potatoes have been grown and consumed in both Australia and the Netherlands and have quickly gained popularity among both the health-conscious set and foodies alike. Carisma potatoes are currently grown and sold only in Ontario and available in limited quantities. They can be purchased at Sobeys, Longo’s, Metro and Whole Foods stores. They are packaged in 5 lb. poly bags and retail for approximately $6.99 per bag.

New Variety of Innate Potato Approved

The J.R. Simplot Company has completed a voluntary consultation with the FDA on their first generation of Innate Snowden variety potatoes (V11). The FDA concluded that the potato is not materially different in composition, safety and other relevant parameters from potato-derived food and feed currently on the market. Health Canada also said it had no objection to the sale of food derived from these potatoes. The Innate potatoes have less bruising, fewer black spots and reduced asparagine, which means less acrylamide when the potatoes are cooked at high temperatures.

Two Potato Fungicides to Consider in 2017

Two fungicides to keep in mind in 2017 are Quash for early blight, and Revus as a seed treatment for late blight. Quash, a Valent product with the active ingredient metconazole, is a triazole or Group 3 fungicide. A four-year trial evaluating Quash as a foliar spray for early blight control showed Quash was effective in controlling early blight and produced increases in total yield that could not be attributed to disease control. Other noticeable effects of metconazole were greener colour of leaves and shorter plants. Quash is registered in Canada for controlling early blight and suppression of white mould. Revus, from Syngenta, is a late blight-specific fungicide that contains the active ingredient mandipropamid and provides very good control of late blight as a foliar spray. The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) has proposed expanding the registration to allow the use of Revus as a potato seed piece treatment to control seed-borne late blight. Revus is fully registered in Canada for foliar use on a variety of crops. According to PMRA, an evaluation of available scientific information found that under the approved conditions of use, the product has value and does not present an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment. Revus as a seed treatment for late blight will be an effective tool to combat late blight as early as planting. This is extremely important for Ontario where the majority of the seed planted in the province comes from other jurisdictions.

Study Reveals True Cost of Developing GMO Potatoes

A recent study has revealed the cost of developing GM potato varieties is not that much more than for conventionally-bred varieties. The study, published in the International Journal of Biotechnology, demystifies the belief that releasing a GM crop costs tens, if not hundreds, of millions of U.S. dollars. The study assessed the cost and time of developing a GM late blight resistant (LBr) potato variety for deregulation and release as a public good, in a specific developing country. Two independently not-for-profit assessed projects have estimated that to deliver one LBr variety to resource-poor farmers in a developing country, it would cost between US$1.3-1.5 million, within a period of eight to nine years. Such costs are not far from a conventionally-bred variety. Publicly funded institutions have been deterred from developing biotech crops because of the cost implications attached to the process of developing and releasing a GM variety. These findings therefore suggest that public institutions in developing countries can make a significant contribution to crop improvement through genetic engineering.


Potato Funding Announced for Manitoba

The Canada and Manitoba governments have invested more than $210,000 in a new vegetable research site near Winkler, Man., focused on improving yields, developing new varieties and creating opportunities for potato, sweet potato and carrot growers. Research will be focused nutrient and pest management for potatoes; new varieties of sweet potato that are better suited for Manitoba’s shorter growing season; and variety evaluation and crop management techniques to improve quality and yield for carrots. The research site will be operated by Peak of the Market, a grower-owned cooperative responsible for selling Manitoba’s fresh market potatoes and other vegetables. The company will contribute more than $477,000 toward this three-year research project.

New Potato Factory in India Will Process 35,000 Tons Annually

Indian manufacturer of French fries and potato specialities, HyFun Foods, has formally inaugurated its new production plant in Mehsana, Gujarat, the second facility of frozen RTC potato variants in the region after McCain Foods India Ltd. HyFun Foods is an over 50-year-old company, engaged in the wholesale business of vegetables such as potatoes, onions, etc. North Gujarat has emerged as a leader in the cultivation of potatoes for processing. All major processors source their potatoes from this region. HyFun is at an advantage as it enjoys a good relationship with potato growers in and around North Gujarat and will be able to leverage a continuous supply of the best potato varieties for their processing plant. More than 1,000 farmers will be associated with the project for cultivation of special varieties of potato. The factory – built with Dutch potato processing equipment – will process 35,000 tons of potato annually and will manufacture 20,000 tons of finished products.

Tesco brings together potato suppliers to reduce food waste

British retail chain Tesco has announced it will bring potato suppliers Branston and Samsworths together, to reduce the food waste, by using all the production for mashed and prepared meals. Mark Little, head of Food Waste Reduction department, explains on Tesco’s blog that potatoes come in all shapes and sizes and, previously, some of the extremely “wonky” ones would get left in the field. To solve the problem, the retail chain takes now more potatoes than ever before, with its Perfectly Imperfect Range program. He mentions that Tesco brings together two of its suppliers to prevent wasting perfectly edible potatoes, as part of the company’s work to reduce food waste and tackle food poverty.


New Global Marketing Manager at Potatoes USA

ssf16-16-rachael_lynch-e1470369454918Rachael Lynch has joined Potatoes USA as a global marketing manager for institutional foodservice markets. Lynch has spent the last five years revitalizing hospital cafeterias across the country, transforming them to meet national health guidelines with innovating concepts focused on wellness and standardization. Lynch is a registered dietitian with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics with an emphasis in foodservice. In 2014, she earned the “Be Well” Honor Award for Excellence in wellness. Lynch spent a semester at Eastern Illinois University as an adjunct professor sharing her expertise in foodservice and nutrition. Lynch is also a ServeSafe certified food and safety manager. Lynch will focus on managing Potatoes USA’s school foodservice and salad bar programs, as well as developing a global marketing strategy for institutional foodservice.

New Potato Researcher at Colorado State University

ssf16-16-amy_charkowski-231x300An expert in potato pathogens is the new head of Colorado State University’s Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management, or BSPM, housed in the College of Agricultural Sciences. Amy Charkowski spent more than 15 years as a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and served as a resource for that state’s potato industry before coming to CSU. Charkowski’s research has provided significant insights into enhancing disease resistance in potato breeding. She served as director of the highly-regarded Wisconsin Seed Potato Certification Program, which includes a tissue culture laboratory, an early generation seed potato farm, and a regulatory program. In addition, her research team developed a participatory potato trialing program for organic potato farmers in the Midwest, with the goal of helping farmers from all sectors access healthy seed potatoes.

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