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Canadian Potato Council

By Joe Brennan, Chair
Canadian Potato Council

Canadian Agri-Science Cluster for Horticulture 2

The Canadian potato industry has received a commitment from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada of more than $4.7 million in funding under the Growing Forward 2 program. This funding is part of the government’s ongoing agri-science cluster project and will be combined with grower and industry contributions of approximately $2.2 million to fund potato research over the next five years. Six projects are ongoing, including research on potato virus Y, wireworm, zebra chip/psyllid monitoring, verticillium detection, and nitrogen management under irrigation. A national potato variety evaluation program is also being funded under the Canadian Agri-Science Cluster for Horticulture 2, and will receive more than $3 million in funding over the next five years.

National Promotion and Research Agency

The Canadian Potato Council has commissioned a study to determine the feasibility of establishing a National Promotion and Research Agency (NPRA) for potatoes. There are two reasons for the creation of a NPRA: a worrisome decline in consumption of potatoes, and the changing nature of government programs that tend to support collaborative efforts. The creation of a NPRA is a means to address the issue of declining consumer demand as well as provide a vehicle for increased industry co-operation related to promotion and research.

A NPRA is a producer organization created under the Farm Products Agencies Act whose goal is to expand markets and increase sales through generic advertising and promotion programs, as well as through research into product attributes, the production process, and new products.

A background research paper was completed as the first phase of the project to determine if the creation of a NPRA is possible, and what conditions must be present for the successful creation of a NPRA. As the next step of the project, a NPRA option paper was developed that outlines the potential options for the organizational structure, governance, operations, and levy collection mechanisms for a NPRA for potatoes.

A series of meetings with provincial potato organizations was conducted during November and early December to present the background information and options, with a final report including recommendations on the feasibility of a NPRA presented to the CPC at year’s end. It is expected that a decision on proceeding with the next step for a NPRA, which is stakeholder consultations, will be considered at the next CPC meeting in March. Partial funding for the feasibility study was provided by the AAFC through the Prince Edward Island ADAPT Council.

Plant Breeders’ Rights

The CPC is fully supportive of amendments to the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act included as part of Bill C-18, the Agricultural Growth Act, which was introduced to the House of Commons for first reading on Dec. 9. The proposed legislation will align Canada with international standards for variety protection under the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV 1991) convention. Variety protection is proposed to increase from 18 years to 25 years under the new legislation. Revision of the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act will encourage both the introduction of improved foreign varieties and encourage domestic potato breeding, contributing to the competitiveness of the Canadian potato industry.

Manitoba

By Dan Sawatsky, Manager
Keystone Potato Producers Association

Early indications of an average crop in 2013 were exceeded as harvest progressed. Rains in mid- to late September delayed digging, and without a killing frost the crop continued to bulk. In spite of a late start in planting, most areas experienced an above average yield, resulting in a 10 per cent surplus of processing potatoes that will need to be marketed.

The fresh crop, which is concentrated in the southern part of the province, had its planting extended well into mid-June with equally surprising yield results. Although quality has improved over the last two years due to reduced heat and drought stress, the wet harvest has caused some issues in storage. In-season management of irrigation to minimize storage rot through variable rate application is a topic of discussion among some growers.

Winter marks the beginning of industry meetings. Our premier meeting, Manitoba Potato Production Days held Jan. 28 to 30 in Brandon, Man., regularly draws more than 500 people from across the country.

New Brunswick

By Matt Hemphill, Executive Director
Potatoes New Brunswick

New Brunswick potato producers experienced an exceptional 2012 in terms of processing payables. Although the overall crop profile wasn’t our best, we were satisfied with the 2012 crop year.

New Brunswick’s overall planted acreage in 2013 was down two to three per cent over the previous year, but in line with the five-year average. Processing volumes remain flat compared to 2012 with the decreases in planted acres being fresh and seed. Another eight producers retired from the business in 2013 but other growers purchased their land. This trend has been continuing for a while as we see average farm size increasing.

Considering we received more than 36 inches of rain this past growing season, the crop is storing well. Some growers have reported a few isolated storage issues; however, processors and packers are working with those producers to mitigate those problems.

Like many parts of North America, the processors are managing an increase in hollow heart percentages this year, but it’s nothing they can’t manage. The fresh side of the business is also dealing with this same issue, but with the fresh market it becomes more of an issue due to a five per cent tolerance. However, packers in New Brunswick have invested in improved technology that allows them to remove hollow potatoes before they reach the retailers.

The overall quality of the past season’s seed crop is excellent. The late planting of the 2013 crop worked in our favour with respect to controlling disease. Aphids were present during the first part of the season when most varieties hadn’t broken ground; therefore, the spread of disease was minimal. Early indications are PVY levels in the province will be low.

Please mark your calendars for Feb. 6 for Potatoes New Brunswick’s annual Potato Conference and Trade Show. For more information please call 506-473-3036 or visit potatoesnb.com.

Alberta

By Terence Hochstein, Executive Director
Potato Growers of Alberta

The Potato Growers of Alberta’s 47th Annual Potato Convention and Trade Show is now behind us and our initial review of the event was that it was an outstanding success. Close to 300 people, including growers, industry associates, sponsors and their families, attended the three-day event held Nov. 19 to 21 in Calgary. Plans have already begun for this year’s AGM and convention to be held in Red Deer, Alta., from Nov. 18 to 20, 2014.

Alberta’s harvest in 2013 turned out to be above average when compared to the last couple of years. Overall yield per acre was up in all three sectors of the industry — process, seed and fresh potatoes. The process industry is working on ways to utilize the 600,000-hundredweight of overage that was produced in Alberta this year.

Indications are that the crop is storing well with very little storage issues to date. The growers are hoping that the worst is behind them as far as issues arising from harvest. Alberta process growers were very diligent in their use of preventative products going into storage this year. Alberta has already experienced some extreme temperature swings with many areas already recording some -45 to -50 C temperatures with the wind chill. A week later we are back on the plus side of the thermometer at 9 C. This type of extreme temperature swings makes it very difficult to manage storage conditions even for the most seasoned growers.

The PGA is undertaking a couple of new initiatives. One is a Speaker Series program to be held for growers and industry representatives over the course of the spring. Late blight will be the first topic presented, with a number of high profile scientists from across North America and some well-respected industry speakers leading the discussion. It is the intent of the PGA to make this an annual event and provide topics that are either relevant or upcoming in the potato industry.

As in all processing areas of North America, the negotiating season starts in earnest early in the new year. Negotiating committees and processors will be working long hours to come up with a fair settlement that will be beneficial to both parties and contribute to the overall health of our industry. This vital process ensures the continued success and growth of the potato industry in North America.

Quebec

By Clement LaLancette, General Manager
Federation des Producteurs de Pommes de Terre du Quebec

For the last eight years, Quebec potato growers and packers have been running a publicity campaign together throughout the province. Our publicity efforts are divided in two parts, the first one being the arrival of new potatoes in July. The second one is in November, which we call the “Month of Potato.”

For our November promotion, we initially thought about putting a moustache on potato bags for this month, but this idea had already been taken. So we decided instead to emphasize the nutritional aspects of potatoes. We have had pretty good results in terms of changing consumer perceptions regarding the health benefits and taste of potatoes. We are confident that this campaign contributes to increasing the value of potatoes in the eyes of consumers.

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