As demand has dropped due to the current global pandemic, Canadian potato growers are expected to plant only 328,000 acres, a 9.4 per cent decline from 2019, the April 29 issue of North American Potato Market News says. The biggest acreage reductions are expected in Alberta, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.
Processing volume reductions, due a drop in french fry demand from shuttered restaurants, accounts for 85 to 90 per cent of the reduction, the report says. Also factoring into the cuts are seed potato acres, as seed growers have been forced to adjust acres due to reduced demand for processing varieties.
The United Potato Growers of Canada are expected to make a formal recommendation for growers to cut back acres this week, the report notes. However, the report doesn’t expect growers will make the recommended cuts as they already have a substantial investment in 2020 crop.
“Readers need to be aware that if the table potato growers heed suggestions that they cut back on planting, the decline in Canada’s 2020 potato area could be more extensive than our current forecast.”
If the seed potato cuts happen it could be a major issues for the entire potato industry, not just Canada as American seed growers are facing the same problems. Last minute seed order cancellations have left seed growers with a large amount of unsold seed causing financial stress, the report says. Reduced seed acres this year could limit processing potato seed selection for several years. Growers are asking for federal help but it sounds like that won’t happen.
Overall french fry sales are expected to be down about 12 per cent for the 2020/21 marketing year, the report says. On average contract volumes have been reduced by 17 per cent, but part of that reduction is in order to absorb excess 2019 crop. “Actual sales could vary widely, relative to the projection, depending upon how quickly business can recover.”