At the Root, Potato Industry News Spud Smart Fall 2010

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Product News

Cavendish Purchases Breeding Rights to Eco-Friendly Tater
Cavendish Farms has purchased the breeding rights to a type of potato it says is suitable for french fries and good for the environment. It’s the first time the P.E.I-based company has bought the rights to an entire variety of potato, called Prospect, developed on the island. That means Cavendish decides who can grow the potato. “This variety was very good for processing, very good for growing and very good for the environment,” says Blaine MacPherson, vice-president of Cavendish Farms.

Second GM Starch Potato Looks for EU Approval
An application for the EU approval of a second genetically modified starch potato, Amadea, has been made to Brussels by developer BASF, as harvesting begins of its first GM variety, Amflora. Both potatoes are modified to produce pure amylopectin starch, rather than a mixture of amylopectin and amylase. In paper and adhesive industries, where potato starch is used, only amylopectin is needed and separating the two starch components is uneconomic.

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Business News

Frito Lay Invests in New Minas Operations
Frito Lay Canada, a division of PepsiCo Canada, is investing more than $2 million in its New Minas, N.S., operations to upgrade production equipment and make the facility more environmentally sustainable. Frito Lay Canada’s New Minas facility is a major employer in the region with about 140 full-time and hourly employees. The province, through Nova Scotia Business Inc., is supporting the company and its upgrades with a five-year payroll rebate of up to $500,000. “This investment is good news for the plant. We will use it to upgrade our equipment to ensure we’re delivering the highest-quality products that are manufactured in an environmentally sustainable facility,” said Anne-Marie Renaud, vice-president of operations for Frito Lay Canada. The New Minas plant manufactures a number of Frito Lay Canada products for retail and food service customers in Eastern Canada including Lay’s and Ruffles potato chips. About 30 per cent of the New Minas plant’s supply of potatoes is from the community, and the remaining 70 per cent is shipped from Prince Edward Island.

P.E.I. Potato Board Meets Algerian Industry Leaders
This summer, the P.E.I. Potato Board hosted a delegation of industry leaders from Algeria. Up until the mid-1990s, Prince Edward Island shipped millions of pounds of potatoes to the African country, peaking in 1994 when the Island shipped more than 200 million pounds of table and seed potatoes. But improved potato production in Europe, which is geographically closer, and increased shipping costs caused Prince Edward Island to fall out of favour with Algeria. In 2007, only eight million pounds of potatoes were shipped to Algeria and since then it’s almost non-existent. But Greg Donald, general manager of the P.E.I. Potato Board, is confident the relationship between the two jurisdictions can be rekindled. The P.E.I. Potato Board was in Algeria last fall. Holland is now Prince Edward Island’s biggest competitor. Holland has been supplying about 60 per cent of Algeria’s seed potatoes. They are also getting seed potatoes from France and Belgium.

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Industry News

Manitoba Farmers Plant Fewer Potatoes
Potato acreage is down this year in Canada, with the biggest drop occurring in Manitoba, according to Statistics Canada. The agency said an estimated 70,000 acres (28,329 hectares) of potatoes were planted this year in Manitoba, a decline of 11 per cent from the 79,000 acres (31,971 hectares) that were seeded in 2009. Nationally, the drop-off was not as severe. Statistics Canada said an estimated 359,400 acres (145,449 hectares) of potatoes were planted across the country this year, down 3 per cent from 2009’s total of 371,100 acres (150,184 hectares). Despite the decline, Manitoba is still the second largest potato-producing province in the country after Prince Edward Island, where an estimated 84,500 acres (34,197 hectares) of potatoes were planted this year.

No Change in P.E.I. Potato Board Rules for Negotiating Contracts
A tribunal ruling allowing the P.E.I. Potato Board to set the rules for negotiating contracts between potato processors and farmers is a victory for growers, says the board.
The rules were designed to put in place a process that would ensure a contract was signed before planting, and included binding arbitration. The board said the rules were necessary so farmers would know how many potatoes they needed to plant. Cavendish Farms appealed the potato board order to the tribunal. That appeal was denied in a recent ruling. Cavendish appealed the potato board order to the Natural Products Appeals Tribunal. Cavendish argued the board did not have the power to make the order. The tribunal said the board does have the power to make orders, and noted Cavendish did not present an adequate alternative to the process already in place.

Zebra Disease Pest Found in North Dakota
Potato psyllids, an insect pest that in some parts of the country carries a serious disease bacterium, was found this summer in university research plots in northern Grand Forks County. So far, none of the psyillids found in North Dakota have carried the bacteria that carries zebra chip disease, which can leave potatoes unmarketable.

DAS and Wageningen UR Enter into Research Agreement
Dow AgroSciences LLC and the Plant Sciences Group of Wageningen University and Research Centre have entered into a research agreement to study how Exzact Precision Technology can improve the starch quality of the potato. Under the agreement, researchers at Wageningen UR in the Netherlands will study the effectiveness of using the technology in the tetraploid potato, a commonly grown crop that represents a food and fibre source for millions of people worldwide. DAS is providing its technology as well as access to intellectual property, validated, high-quality zinc-finger reagents and scientific expertise. “Wageningen UR is a world leader in potato genetic research and breeding,” says Kay Kuenker, DAS vice-president for New Business. “By combining our technology with Wageningen UR’s expertise, we have an opportunity to create significant value and bring innovation to the agricultural market.”

USDA-ERS Report: Potato Area Down, Prices to Rise
The latest United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service’s August 2010 Vegetable and Melon Outlook reported that harvested area for fall-season potatoes is forecast at 882,300 acres, 4 per cent lower than 2009. Given average yields, fall potato production is expected to decline from the 393.5 million hundredweight of a year earlier. Because of tighter world supplies, grower prices are expected to average above year-earlier levels during the 2010/11 marketing year.

Mexico Lowers Frozen Potato Tariff
The Mexican government recently lowered a 20 per cent tariff on frozen potato products to 5 per cent. But U.S. potato growers are still not on a level playing field with Canadian producers and processors because Canadians aren’t charged the tariff, according to the Washington State Potato Commission. The tariff was put in place in April 2009 after the U.S. government stopped a cross-boarding trucking program with Mexico.

Canada Border Services Agency Continues Anti-Dumping Duties
The Canadian International Trade Tribunal on September 10, 2010, issued an order following the expiry review of its order made on September 12, 2005, in Expiry Review No. RR-2004-006 concerning the dumping of certain whole potatoes originating in or exported from the United States of America for use or consumption in the province of British Columbia. The Tribunal found that the expiry of the order would likely result in injury to the growers of all or almost all of the potato production in British Columbia in the near to medium term. The Canada Border Services Agency will therefore continue to impose anti-dumping duties on these products. The tribunal is an independent quasi-judicial body that reports to Parliament through the Minister of Finance. It hears cases on dumped and subsidized imports, safeguard complaints, complaints about federal government procurement and appeals of customs and excise tax rulings.

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People News

WSPO Executive Director on All-Potato Diet
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Frustration has driven Washington State Potato Commission executive director Chris Voigt to go on an all-potato diet. No sour cream! No butter! Not even bacon bits! His aggravation is with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s refusal to include potatoes among the vegetables and fruits approved for the Women, Infants and Children Program. Voigt, who began the diet October 1, says he is going to consume 20 potatoes and nothing else until November 29—60 consecutive days, 1,200 potatoes.

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