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Eye On The Nation

The latest potato production news from across the country.

SPRING 2019

MANITOBA

Dan Sawatzky, General Manager, Keystone Potato Producers Association

As I write this snapshot of what I am seeing in the Manitoba potato world, both Simplot Canada and McCain Foods are busy with capital projects. Simplot is on track with the construction of a new plant adjacent to their Portage location doubling their capacity and adding to their ability to produce specialty products. McCain is near the end of a three-week shutdown in Portage to replace and upgrade equipment and add to their raw receiving ability.

The past few days in mid-March have seen temperatures climb to freezing, providing some relief from the below normal temperatures in February. Snowfall has been above normal which should result in adequate runoff to fill reservoirs that were added or expanded in preparation for the increased acreage needed to supply the additional plant capacity. High River levels are being forecasted which will result in some flooding of low-lying areas.

Holdings of old crop are down in both the fresh and processing sectors. Dry conditions in the fresh growing area reduced yield by about 30 per cent while a difficult harvest weather and frost limited process production. Strong demand is also drawing down stocks. Potatoes continue to be imported to supplement supply and extend factory run time.

With Manitoba being one of the few areas in North America without pricing in place for the 2019 processing crop, additional meetings have been added to the busy winter meeting schedule. Annual meetings with the provincial crop insurance provider also took on a higher priority questioning the effectiveness of the Agri Insurance, Agri Stability and Agri Recovery programs.

As growers prepare for the 2019 crop they are trying to put 2018 behind them although it is a reminder of the risks associated with being a potato producer. In Manitoba, potato producers have spent many hours over the winter months with a sharp pencil to determine how they can take advantage of the opportunity that expansion may be offering them.

ALBERTA

Terence Hochstein, Executive Director, Potato Growers of Alberta

As Alberta waits for spring to begin, we can look back on a very different winter. Not many growers can remember the last time the whole province went 25 – 30 days straight with -25 to -40 degree temperatures. Now that that is hopefully behind us, the growers are eagerly awaiting the snow to melt and the soil to warm up in order to begin field preparations for planting. There is seed starting to move south, with the coming weeks anticipated to be very hectic. 

With the unfortunate situations in Manitoba and Prince Edward Island this past season, any overage that was produced in Alberta has found a home out of province. The continued encouragement amongst all growing areas to only produce to contract would have been very evident this year for Alberta growers as we would have had a large amount of overage with no home if not for the role that Mother Nature played in other areas of North America. The message remains the same again this year, only grow to your contract requirements as overage has very little value without a home. 

With the new Cavendish plant in Lethbridge scheduled to open in July – August 2019, it is anticipated that an additional 6,500 acres of processing potatoes will be planted this spring in Alberta. This will not only meet the needs of Cavendish but any other adjustments that McCain’s and Lamb Weston may make. 

The annual AIPA Burgers and Beans and the PGA Golf Tournament are scheduled for July 10th and 11th. For more information please call the office. 

Safe planting for everyone across Canada. 

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Hugh Reynolds, Reynelda Farms, Delta, B.C.

After a snowy February and early March, growers were finally able to get their Warbas in. There has been little rain and so the fields are dry enough to plow and now the temperature is finally warm. 

The B.C. seed growers are grading fast as the quality is high with low disease and virus. The fresh growers are still shipping hard with large potatoes at fair prices. While this takes skill, it also needs luck which we had last year. B.C. growers are buying steel to help us plant and harvest faster as we know that it is only time until we get the bad weather. Good luck to all in the coming year. 

QUÉBEC

Clément Lalancette, Directeur General, Les Producteurs de pommes de terre du Québec 

The 2018 – 2019 marketing season has been a challenging one for Quebec’s growers and it is not over yet! The wet and cold harvesting period impacted the quality of potatoes in storage and some growers had to throw potatoes away. The dry summer had an impact, too, on the quality, with the result of smaller tubers and less “chief” potatoes. Almost 2,000 acres had to be left unharvested. The weather explained in large part the very low production and inventory in Eastern provinces (57 M/cwt, instead of an 59 M/cwt average). 

The good side of this situation, with such a limited production, is the price increase in the fresh market and for open potatoes for growers with over contract volume. The processors and packers were all looking for potatoes, but there was more demand than offer. 

The bad side of this situation was the fact that some growers had difficulty paying their bills because they had a very poor crop. The risk protection programs did not work perfectly to help them and we are still evaluating the situation. 

The big question for the next marketing season is will we see an important acreage increase after such good prices? Probably, but seed availability could reduce this increase. 

NEW BRUNSWICK

Jean-Maurice Daigle, Director of Market Information, Potatoes New Brunswick 

The New Brunswick 2018 crop is storing well with a few issues and growers are keeping a close eye on the storages. With the early frosts, wet fall and potatoes left in the field, this year’s crop is very different than crop 2017. Lower yields, lower payables and rough, immature tubers have caused supply within the province in all sectors to be tight. 

Processors are running at or above stated capacity due to the tight supply of raw product throughout the world. 

Fresh table potato packers are also struggling with quality and a limited supply of raw. All indication points to packers running out of supply before the availability of new crop. Potato prices are higher than average, but this is mainly due to a lack of supply. 

The N.B. Seed Potato Growers’ Association held their annual N.B. seed potato day on February 28, 2019, in Grand Falls, where growers and industry representatives meet for a full day of discussions around current issues, best management practices and research results in order to continue to make the New Brunswick Seed Potato Industry a leader in the production of high-quality seed potatoes. 

 

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