AgronomyEye on the Nation

Eye on the Nation


[deck]Potato industry news and events from partners and associations across Canada.[/deck]


Edzo Kok, Executive Director
Potato Growers of Alberta

With planting season approaching, growers are faced with the annual decision of how many acres to plant to fulfill their contracts. While the common approach has always been to base the acreage requirement on the past few years’ average yields, there has recently been a temptation to stray from that formula. With Mother Nature not cooperating in many areas for the last few years, we are seeing yields well below the averages farms have historically achieved. The inability to fulfill contract voluame obligations with the processors weighs heavily on growers and leaves them with a sense of uneasiness with regard to their expectations when contract volumes are being adjusted. To top it off, overage potatoes have been selling out at above-contract values for the last few years. That means a lot of temptation, but also that conditions for a perfect storm are brewing.

What has to be considered is what will happen if an average growing season occurs for everyone. Processors now contract very close to their contract requirements, and have little capacity for overage potatoes if everyone delivers their full contracts. Last year and again this year, processors are looking for 55 weeks’ worth of potatoes, because their inventory pipeline is low and the old crop is short. There is a strong possibility that 2013 contract volumes will be down even though business has not changed—the pipeline has simply been refilled. An above-average crop in 2012 or intentional overage will only compound the situation in 2013. Regardless of the price any overage will sell for, it will not be enough to negate loss of volume the following year.

The message this spring is to plant according to your farm’s true potential yield.


Kirk Flaman, President
Saskatchewan Seed Potato Growers Association

Saskatchewan growers produced a great crop from 2011. Yields were above average, while the quality of the crop was excellent. Disease pressures were minimal due to the very warm, sunny growing season.
Looking into the 2012 planting season, growers are optimistic that prices should remain strong throughout the year. Growers are reminded to remain diligent in keeping the balance between supply and demand for their profitability.
All the best to all growers in the upcoming growing season!

Prince Edward Island

Gary Linkletter, Chairman
Prince Edward Island Potato Board

A significant part of the budget at the Prince Edward Island Potato Board is used to promote our potato products, but there is always more that can be done. Issues that hit the press such as fad diets that limit carbohydrates and articles that highlight misinformation about potato nutrition require continual efforts to promote the positive benefits of our product to the public in a general sense. One way to stretch our marketing dollar is take advantage of opportunities that come along to get positive stories in the press. As you can see from the sample of a recent P.E.I. Potato Board press release below, we were able to capitalize on a recently-released ranking of foodie destinations to promote P.E.I. potatoes:
Finally, everyone around the globe will now learn what East Coasters have long known – that Prince Edward Island produces the world’s best food. Pre-eminent food authority and restaurant surveyor Zagat just crowned Prince Edward Island the second best foodie getaway in the world.

In addition to the diverse seafood fare that can be caught quite literally in a restaurant’s backyard, Prince Edward Island also boasts rich agricultural offerings – look no further than the princely-produced potato. Rich red soil high in mineral content and long cold winters create perfect growing conditions for potatoes.

“We are thrilled that Prince Edward Island joins the ranks of other amazing culinary capitals,” said Greg Donald, general manager, Prince Edward Island Potato Board. “Having Zagat appreciate our island’s local fare is a huge honour.”
Okinawa, Japan took first place as Zagat’s best foodie getaway, while Louisville, Kentucky, Cornwall, England and Vieques, Puerto Rico round out the top five.

As potato growers, we are well aware of all the benefits of potatoes and what a good food source they are. Tagging on to good news stories like this, wherever we are, can only help the potato industry as a whole.

Potato Research Centre

John Morrison, Regional Communications Officer
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

The annual open house to showcase accelerated release varieties developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, held in Fredericton February 15, drew a good crowd.

Thirteen new selections developed by AAFC potato breeders in Fredericton are ready for further trials. The selections unveiled February 15 include a low glycemic potato with potential health benefits for diabetics and diet-conscious consumers, which attracted considerable media interest.

Recent research shows that healthy, low glycemic index diets have a range of benefits, including more sustainable weight loss and improvement in the management of diabetes. Low GI foods digest slowly. The reason lower GI foods are more desirable is they don’t create a big spike of insulin in the body.

Potato Research Centre potato breeder Benoit Bizimungu sees a low glycemic potato as a niche product, which could help develop the market for a potato for diabetics and create a new market for farmers. The next step is for the potato industry to test it and to see what they think.

Bizimungu is also capitalizing on some new technologies to speed up potato variety development. A near-infrared spectrometer and a rheometer at the Potato Research Centre in Fredericton allow scientists to measure starch content and composition of potatoes with a simple test, cutting years of trial and error to identify desirable characteristics.

New Brunswick

Joe Brennan, Chairman
Potatoes New Brunswick

The 2011 potato growing season in New Brunswick was definitely one for the record books! Our season started off like many other  potato growing areas across North America—cool, damp and a bit late. Similar to the 2010 crop, our growers planted approximately 50,000 acres. That, we soon learned, was the only similarity to the 2010 season. We had three hail events during the first half of July. The remainder of the growing season continued to be a real challenge—some areas recorded over 36 inches of rain, and all areas received too much!

We all know that too much rain is worse than not enough. Our growers have battled moisture-related problems all season, before and after harvest, making this crop one of the most expensive we have ever grown. As a result of the cool, late spring, poor growing conditions, approximately 3,500 acres left unharvested and  storability issues, we have about 35 per cent fewer potatoes in storage now than in 2010.

The processing plants have been running hard and expect to have this crop processed earlier than normal. Our seed sector was also impacted by the season and had below-average yields. The industry has been working diligently over the past three years to address PVY and this year, thanks to the efforts of our growers and the support of our provincial government, there is legislation that prohibits the planting of high-virus seed in New Brunswick. We hope this will establish a ceiling on the inoculum and allow us to reduce the level of PVY in future years.

The fourth United Potato Growers Partners’ Seminar was held on January 17 this year in Fredericton. This one-day meeting brought a lot of current market information to our growers from across North America. On February 9, our annual New Brunswick Potato Conference and Trade Show was held in Grand Falls, where a capacity crowd showed up to hear many good speakers.

Our board will be holding a series of district grower meetings in late March to discuss other  relevant topics of concern to our growers.

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