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Canadian Potato Council

David Jones, Manager, Potato Industry Co-ordination
Canadian Horticultural Council/Canadian Potato Council
Tracy Shinners-Carnelley, Director, Research & Quality Enhancement Peak of the Market

The Research Working Group of the Canadian Potato Council has been very active developing the potato research proposal for inclusion in the Canadian Horticultural Council’s Agri-Science Cluster for Horticulture 2 under the Growing Forward 2 application.

Last November, the CPC adopted the National Potato Research and Innovation Strategy, developed through broad-based industry stakeholder consultations conducted in seven provinces during July and August 2012 and funded in part by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Agricultural Innovation Program. One key element of the strategy is the identification of  priority areas for research over the next 10-year period. Producers are encouraged to review the strategy at: hortcouncil.ca/uploads/file/English/Canadian%20Potato%20Council/CPC_National_Research_Strategy_Final_CPC-CHC_En.pdf.

In December 2012, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced the details of AAFC’s Agri-Innovation Programs under Growing Forward 2. The announcement of the Agri-Science Cluster Program under this funding initiative provides the opportunity to access funding to support research in key priority areas. The science cluster model is one that supports industry-led research. This is a new model for research, and one to which we are still adapting. A critical element to this approach is the engagement of industry during priority-setting, project development, project activities and dissemination of research results. The funding formula for the cluster program is 75 per cent AAFC and 25 per cent industry.

The CPC’s Research Working Group identified researchers and priority research proposals based on the strategy through a call for expressions of interest, and subsequent review and invitation to submit full proposals for some projects. Selected proposals were included in the CHC’s Agri-Science Cluster for Horticulture 2 under the Growing Forward 2 application to AAFC, which was submitted on Feb. 1, 2013. Proposed potato projects include improved pest and disease management for some key priority pests, fertility management and the development of a national variety evaluation program.

As we adapt to this new model, the CPC continues to look for ways to effectively engage industry stakeholders in this process. One way to support ongoing industry engagement is through the creation of industry advisory teams. These teams are being developed for each activity area included in the science cluster and will be critical in providing guidance and oversight from a cross section of potato industry stakeholders.

British Columbia

Tom Demma, General Manager
B.C. Vegetable Marketing Commission

Potato storages are currently in various stages of supply in British Columbia. Some producers may have finished shipping while others have supply that will take them deeper into the storage season. Regardless of the situation in the storage sheds, B.C. producers are looking forward to seeding the 2013 crop this spring. Growers are busily planning and making ready to enable machinery and crews to be mobilized quickly as soon the weather permits.

The 2012-2013 potato crop in British Columbia was average in volume, and quality has remained consistently high throughout the storage season. Marketing of the 2012 crop is expected to continue into early June. One trend has been banner stores of national retail chains and wholesalers ordering a steady supply of potatoes from marketing agencies, which benefits B.C. growers.

As in past years, British Columbia is heavily influenced by what’s happening in the Pacific Northwest, the largest potato-producing region in the United States. It’s widely known in the potato industry that the U.S. Russet market has been unprofitable for producers, and this spills over into British Columbia.

Despite being somewhat contrary to the self-interest of American producers, all signs point to a similar potato area being planted in the United States this spring. If this occurs, 2013–2014 Russet prices, and by association those for other potato varieties, will likely trend as they did this past year. Current and projected future robust prices for grains, soybeans and other rotation field crops do not seem to be turning heads to the extent where American producers are prepared to plant fewer potatoes.

New Brunswick

Matt Hemphill, Executive Director
Potatoes New Brunswick

The 2012 growing season in New Brunswick was another one for the record books. The southern part of the potato-growing area in the Saint John River valley received too much precipitation early in the season, with some areas receiving up to 10 inches of rain during the last week of June. That was followed by two months of very little rainfall, resulting in a small profile on many farms in that area. The northern region, while drier, did receive timely rainfall and harvested a good crop. Although yields were extremely variable from farm to farm, overall the province harvested a crop that was slightly below an average yield, and the crop has been storing well.

Crop movement to date has been slow on the fresh side, although we are on pace with our five-year average. We are experiencing the same price pressure as all areas across North America. Processing movement has been steady, and the quality of the processing crop is very good. The seed shipping season is just getting underway and will continue through May.

The winter ‘meeting season’ is well underway, as in most farming regions. Potato New Brunswick’s AGM was held in Florenceville, N.B., in late November. In mid-December, our board elected a new executive committee—Denis Desjardin, from Drummond, is chair; George McIntosh, from Bath, is vice-chair; and Ed Kavanaugh, from Grand Falls, stays on as treasurer. In early January, PNB representatives attended the Potato Expo in Las Vegas, Nev. This large gathering of “potato people” from across North America provided insight into many aspects of the industry.

New Brunwick’s Seed Potato Growers’ Association had its AGM in late January in conjunction with a workshop on PVY management. The New Brunswick Potato Conference and Trade Show was held on Feb. 7 in Grand Falls. This one-day event featured an excellent slate of speakers and was well attended by growers and industry representatives from Maine, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.

We hosted the fifth annual United Potato Partners seminar in Florenceville on Feb. 20. Despite stormy weather, the event was well attended. Growers listened to speakers from the western United States talk about planter efficiency and also heard about the fresh supply situation and processing contract negotiations in other areas.

With the arrival of spring, growers are now turning their attention to the next crop. That is one of the exciting parts of this business—a new year is a new game!

Alberta

John Bareman, Vice-Chair
Potato Growers of Alberta

The balance of the 2012 crop of processing potatoes is now storing well. This has been a trying storage season for some of the producers and processors in dealing with storage issues, but hopefully these problems are now behind us. Processors have indicated that there is enough product in storage to comfortably run plants until the end of July.

Negotiations with processors for the 2013 crop are well underway. Processors have indicated that quality will become a more critical part of the negotiation process. Another aspect of these talks is the oversupply of potatoes produced in North America in the fall of 2012, which makes the negotiation process much more difficult. As growers, we are reminded again that in order to be profitable in our operations, we must be diligent in achieving quality and quantity.

All indications show that there is a sufficient supply of good quality seed potatoes in the province of Alberta. There’s been an interesting development in the seed sector—one of the seed farms put under quarantine a few years ago, as a result of suspected problems with potato cyst nematodes, recently received some good news: its last suspect field has been deregulated and the farm has officially been declared PCN-free.

Wishing all potato growers a prosperous 2013 growing season!

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