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Even though 2017 planting was delayed in many areas, the average potato yield in Canada is expected to end up just shy of 2016’s record yield.

Despite a slow start for potato planting in some parts of the country, the average yield in Canada in 2017 is expected to come close to that of last year’s record-breaking crop, according to figures provided by the United Potato Growers of Canada (UPGC).

Based on late August estimates from producers, the Canadian average yield for this year’s crop is projected to be 304 hundredweight (cwt) per acre, which is just under the 307 cwt per acre yield recorded in 2016.

Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of the UPGC, was reluctant to speculate on the actual number of potatoes Canada will produce this year because of the relative lateness of the crop. He did say, however, that the 2017 crop was shaping up well in most areas as growers prepared for harvest, with Manitoba leading the way.

“I think Manitoba will reach its record-breaking yield from last year and maybe even surpass it,” MacIsaac says. In Alberta, he added, an unusually hot summer there had tempered potato yield expectations heading into harvest, but “overall they’re looking at a good crop too.”

UPGC figures indicate the potato industry in Ontario has rebounded nicely from last year’s drought that dramatically reduced yields for potatoes and other crops. The estimated potato yield in that province for this year is up 17 per cent from 2016.

The figures also show potato yields are expected to be down slightly in Quebec and Prince Edward Island from 2016.

As for New Brunswick, MacIsaac maintains the potato yield there will likely be just shy of last year’s number. “New Brunswick’s crop looks very good for the most part,” he says. “It was a little dry in the southern part… but I think they will certainly make up for it by the look of the crop in the northern part of the province.”

The biggest potato yield decline is projected to be in British Columbia. “A year ago, they had fantastic growing conditions, but they haven’t had that this year,” MacIsaac notes. A much later than normal start to planting was followed by very hot, dry summer in B.C., so “they’ll be expecting a pretty significant reduction compared to last year, I think.”

In terms of potato sectors, MacIsaac says total processing production in Canada would likely be higher this year than last, primarily due to plant expansions in New Brunswick and Quebec. He added total Canadian fresh production is expected to be down slightly compared to 2016 as a result of growing conditions this year, and that total seed potato production in Canada could drop as well.

“Alberta is a big seed producer and they had a bumper crop last year in their seed growing area,” MacIsaac says. “It probably won’t be quite as good this year, and since they’re such a large player, this may lower the overall Canadian seed production down a little bit.”

MacIsaac says the supply/demand outlook at the beginning of harvest was generally bright. “There’s been good demand because the old crop finished up well in each area,” he notes. “Pricing is good in pretty well all areas.”

Another encouraging sign is the crop situation south of the border. The fact that Idaho reduced its potato acreage by 15,000 acres at the start of the season was “very good news for the rest of the industry because they’re such a large player,” notes MacIsaac. He adds yields in many potato-producing areas across the U.S. likely won’t be as high as they were last year due to growing conditions.

“Overall, we’re happy with the way things look from the U.S. side. It’s a global industry so whenever we’re more balanced, in terms of North America especially, that really allows us better opportunity for profit.”

American potato market analyst Bruce Huffaker is forecasting a four per cent drop in the 2017 fall potato crop in the U.S. from a year ago.

In his Sept. 6 North American Potato Market News report, Huffaker states he expects U.S. growers to produce 389.5 million cwt of fall potatoes this year, which is 16.4 million cwt less than the current estimate of 2016’s fall potato production.

That puts the average yield for U.S. fall potatoes at 434 cwt per acre — 18 cwt per acre less than last year’s record yield.

 

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