The pandemic french fry demand downturn pushed Canadian potato stocks to 20.82 million cwt as of June 1, 26.8 per cent more than in 2019, the June 10 issue of North American Potato Market News says. Ontario was the only province which had less potatoes in storage than last year, while the rest of the provinces, except for British Columbia, had 22 to 35 per cent more potatoes in storage.
“Intended use data show that the extra inventory is concentrated in the processing sector, which has seen the biggest negative impact from quarantine measures established to control the spread of COVID-19,” the report says.
May potato disappearance fell to its lowest level since 2012 at 11.43 million cwt. Almost all of the downturn came from the frozen processing sector. Seed potato disappearance was actually 5.5 per cent higher than 2019, but that could have been through disposal or sales to alternative channels, not actual seed sales, the report notes.
“Disappearance exceeded last year’s pace in Ontario and Manitoba, but fell short in all other provinces,” the report says.
Table potato inventory was higher than last year at 2.08 million cwt. Most of the export potatoes were located in Prince Edward Island and Quebec, but should be cleared out by the end of June.
Provinces with french fry production capacity had 17.2 million cwt of processing potatoes as of June 1, the report notes. This was up by 25.3 per cent compared to 2019 with the disappearance rate dropping by 19.9 per cent.
“Some of those potatoes moved through alternative channels, not through fry plants. Local observers are hopeful that fryers will be able to use the remaining potatoes, but that will depend upon the speed with which demand for french fries recovers during the summer months,” the report says.