United Potato Growers of Canada
By Ray Keenan
During the summer, I had the opportunity to make a presentation to the Board of Governors of the Bank of Canada about potato farming, and the challenges and opportunities we face as farmers in producing a crop and taking it through to market. I shared with the group the escalation in cost of production and total farm debt that we’ve all faced in recent years, the consolidation of buying power at the processor and retail level, and the need for a reasonable return on investment to enable farmers to continue to participate in the business of producing food for Canadians and others around the world.
Part of my message was the efforts of United Potato Growers of Canada to help improve returns for growers by providing better information on the supply and demand for potatoes. We know that the demand for potatoes is seen as relatively “inelastic,” therefore, overproduction has a severe and direct negative impact on prices and returns. A lot of factors can affect our eventual total production of potatoes in North America, but it does start with the basics of how many acres we put in the ground. Planting only the number of acres required to meet the “known” markets each of us has, and avoiding open or speculative acres, goes a long way to increasing our chances of receiving reasonable returns for our labour and investment.
United has been working on obtaining the most accurate picture possible of our total potato production in Canada, and then separating out how much of that is already contracted or committed to processing and how much is destined for seed markets. The amount remaining is the volume of Canadian potatoes we will have to market in the coming season. We need to get that number as accurate as possible, and then share it with growers, packers, dealers, exporters, retailers, food service and processors so that we make the best possible decisions on the marketing of the crop. We know we can produce potatoes. Our challenge is to market them more wisely, and ensure that all stakeholders receive value and benefit from our efforts. Please plan to attend the United Partners Program Seminar in your region in early 2011 for more information on this and other United initiatives.