By Hugh Reynolds, Reynelda Farms, Delta, B.C.
B.C. has had near endless rain in January with a very cold February and a wet, cool March forecast. This puts B.C. behind for our famous early potatoes. With today’s excellent planters, we will only need a good week to pound in many acres of potatoes, but they will be a little later this year.
In B.C. we have a regulated quota for potato delivery so that growers deliver their potatoes in turn. This allows the marketing agencies to fairly price and deliver potatoes as the stores need them. While there are always some middle guys who want to dump product for quick sales at the expense of the farmers, the marketing commission is there to nudge them back into line.
In B.C. all of our potatoes get sold at a fair price. Yes, it would be nice to sell out by October and go hunting. The trade needs potatoes every day throughout the year and that is the reason they are willing to give us fair prices. While these market pirates do not appear to care, our public appreciates constant supply and will buy B.C. potatoes every day we are in the stores.
For food service, B.C. has maintained a taste for the heritage variety Kennebec which are served as a premium fresh fry, and every indication is that we can keep this going. As I travel around North America I am often astonished at the terrible low prices seen.
B.C. Fresh will open its new warehouse this spring and just in time as the truck drivers are tired of parking up and down the road to get an open loading door. We have rented the older warehouse to a local greenhouse agency that is expanding which will also help B.C. agriculture.
By Dan Sawatzky, General Manager, Keystone Potato Producers Association
The long winter season in Manitoba passes by quickly with local industry meetings such as Keystone Potato Producers annual meeting in December, Manitoba Potato Production Days in January and the March United Potato Partners/Spring production meeting. Additional producer meetings are added as contract negotiations move forward or other issues arise.
The processors also add their own producer meeting with expected attendance. Wider industry meetings such as Potato Expo, Potato Marketing Association of North America, Canadian Horticultural Council meetings, and involvement in our own provincial general farm organization (Keystone Agricultural Producers) also involve board members and others who have interest.
Managing storage and shipping of old crop potatoes, repairing or replacing equipment, reviewing aspects of the past year in terms of financial return, and farm health and planning for future opportunities occupy time throughout the winter.
In Manitoba, with the recent announcement of the Simplot expansion, much thought, advice and wisdom will be needed to determine if the opportunity to expand the farm fits into the overall vision of the farm family. With additional production coming on stream in the fall of 2019, growers will need to begin assembling infrastructure, such as buildings, this coming year to ensure completion for storage of the 2019 crop.
We have experienced little snow coverage to help with the deficit soil moisture that we saw throughout the latter part of summer and fall 2017. Frost has been going deep which should help control early insect pressure and should also eliminate volunteer potato plants from emerging. Water available to fill off-stream irrigation ponds from snowmelt is a current concern, but we trust we will receive snow or spring rains to replenish reserves.
Spring is quickly approaching as growers anticipate another opportunity to maximize return on the huge investment they have made and continue to make annually within their farming operations.
By Jean-Maurice Daigle, Director of Market Information, Potatoes New Brunswick
The New Brunswick 2017 crop is storing very well with very few issues and excellent quality. Even though New Brunswick growers planted more total acres in 2017, average yields and increased demand at the processors resulted in a balanced supply of potatoes in inventory.
Processors are running at or near full capacity, and out-of-province processors sourcing within New Brunswick results in minimal inventory of processing potatoes available within the province.
Fresh table potato quality continues to be above average. Market demand was strong at the beginning of the shipping season but has slowed a bit in recent months.
The New Brunswick Seed Potato Growers Association held their annual New Brunswick Seed Potato Day on Feb. 22 in Grand Falls, where growers and industry representatives met for a full day of discussions around current issues, best management practices and research results in order to continue to make the New Brunswick seed potato industry a leader in the production of high quality seed potatoes.
By Kevin Brubacher, General Manager, Ontario Potato Board
As we start to see signs in Ontario that winter is coming to an end, we realize another potato season is just on the horizon. A February thaw brought with it unusually high temperatures across the province and most of the snow melted. By the time you read this, potato planting will be underway in some areas.
The 2018 Ontario Potato Conference and Trade Show was held March 6, 2018 at the Delta Hotel and Conference Centre in Guelph. The Conference is supported by the Ontario Potato Board and organized by Dr. Eugenia Banks.
This year’s lineup of speakers included those from all over the world. Ian Toth, a senior scientist from the James Hutton Institute in Dundee, Scotland spoke about how to “battle the old and the new blackleg.” The speaker lineup also included David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada and recipient of the Order of Canada. David spoke about “tomorrow’s weather forecast: expect the unexpected.”
The Ontario Potato Board thanks Dr. Banks for hosting such an important event. Throughout the years, Dr. Banks has grown the potato conference into one of the most anticipated events in North America. We broke attendance records with growers attending from across Canada and the United States. Thanks Eugenia!
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
By Darryl Wallace, Chairman, PEI Potato Board
The International Potato Technology Expo took place on February 23 and 24, 2018 in Charlottetown, P.E.I. Potato growers, together with the leading manufacturers of equipment and product solutions from across the Maritimes and beyond were in attendance. Dozens of exhibitors at the show debuted cutting-edge and innovative products including new potato varieties, the latest models of equipment, innovative growing technology and more. The trade show was accompanied by conference sessions on both Friday and Saturday mornings. Topics covered by both local industry members and those invited form other growing regions included:
- CIPC Residue on Seed and Effect on Emergence and Yield
- New Insights on Wireworm Biology
- Calcium Nutrition to Fortify Seed
- Specific Gravity Principles
- Yield Monitoring Technology from Greentronics
- Weed Management in Potatoes
Many other educational opportunities are available for P.E.I. potato producers through the winter months such as the United Potato Growers of Canada seminar, pesticide applicator courses, the Soil and Crop Improvement Association Conference and local extension sessions sponsored by the PEI Agrology Initiative for Marketable Yield.
Board representatives attended the Canadian Horticultural Council AGM and Canadian Potato Council meeting in Ottawa in mid-March. This venue provides the opportunity to work with potato industry members from across the country to provide input on issues such as potato research and marketing priorities, CFIA potato inspection regulations, the CFIA Cost Recovery Initiative, chemical re-evaluations being conducted by PMRA, and trade issues and regulations.
By Clément Lalancette, Directeur general, Les Producteurs de pommes de terre du Québec
The season is going well with a regular shipment pace. But January was particularly busy. Like other areas, the business is driven by the fry sector where the demand is steadily increasing. We have seen the first important acreage increase since 2006 with a thousand acres addition. Most of this increase is related with the fry demand. This situation reduced pressure on the fresh market, especially on the eastern market, which is good.
There are many buyers looking for open potatoes but no sellers. The quality is good, and the prices are good to even aggressive with ads from retailers. We are seeing a lot of real loss leader ads from chain stores.
On the processing side, we have started our negotiation process with Frito-Lay and we have an agreement for two years with Yum-Yum. We did not start yet with fry processors. The growers are expecting a good increase this year to get better margin and cover their cost of production.
We finally officially started our Quebec Potato Research Consortium on Oct. 24, 2017 that will replace Le Centre de Recherche les Buissons located in northern Quebec. This consortium, of which I am the first president, will coordinate potato research in Quebec, and at least $300,000 in funding will be available each year to use as a leverage for programs and research. The consortium will also continue to work on varieties development.