Canadian processing potato acres are forecast to fall by 15 to 25 percent while fresh potato acreage will stay the same as last year, as the the global pandemic has caused a shift in demand, a new report entitled “COVID-19 Impacts Canadian Potato Sector” from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service says.
Prior to the pandemic provincial boards had met in early March, at the time they had expected processing potato acres to increase by 13,000 acres to fulfill increased capacity. Canada had been importing U.S. potatoes for processing following a dismal harvest in parts of Manitoba and Alberta last year.
Since demand has droped-off for processed potatoes, like french fries, after restaurants were forced to close due to the pandemic, imports of U.S. potatoes have fallen off significantly with existing Ministerial Exemptions cancelled. Canadian potato storage stocks are now considered to be more than enough to fulfill processor demand until this year’s crop is harvested, the report says.
Despite the expected drop in processing potato acres, overall Canadian potato acreage should remain stable, the report says. “However, based on reports of decreased seed acres, decreased contract processing acres, and stagnant fresh acres it seems likely overall acreage may decrease unless growers are willing to risk planting.”
Seed potato acres are expected to decrease due to cancelled orders this spring, the report says. Provincial boards are expecting smaller growers will not plant seed potatoes as cancelled orders from processing growers may have caused financial losses for them. “In some instances, delivered seed is being refused or returned. Estimates of seed acre losses have not been indicated by industry at this point.”
Demand for chipping potatoes has increased during the pandemic. Industry reports are saying potato chip producers are limiting production to the most popular flavours in order to increase output to meet increased retail demand, the report notes.