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[deck]Due in large part to a difficult harvest in many areas of the country, potato production was down in Canada in 2018.[/deck]

Challenging weather conditions in most potato producing areas in Canada — including a cold, wet harvest season that resulted in thousands of acres of potatoes being left in the ground — resulted in a smaller crop in 2018.

Statistics Canada figures released Dec. 13 show total potato production in Canada last year was 103.8 million hundredweight, down 2.6 per cent from 2017. According to StatsCan, the total amount of unharvested acres in Canada in 2018 was more than 16,000 acres. Prince Edward Island and Manitoba were hardest hit by the difficult fall weather.

In Prince Edward Island, where 6,800 acres of potatoes were left unharvested, production was down almost 1.9 million hundredweight or 7.6 per cent from 2017. In Manitoba, where 5,300 acres of potatoes were left in the ground, production dropped 1.9 million hundredweight or 8.6 per cent from 2017.

There were, however, crop increases in some other regions, led by Alberta which produced about 1.8 million hundredweight more potatoes in 2018, an increase of 8.9 per cent from 2017. New Brunswick and British Columbia were the only other provinces to register crop increases last year.

Despite the challenging harvest conditions, StatsCan figures showed the average yield in Canada remained steady at 312 hundredweight per acre, which is only slightly less than the average yield in 2017.

Alberta led the way with a record-breaking yield of 416 hundredweight of potatoes per acre, followed by Manitoba with a yield just over 345 hundredweight of potatoes per acre.

Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of United Potato Growers of Canada, told Spud Smart in December that the overall yield in Canada was higher than he thought it’d be —although he said the number may not be as significant in a year like 2018 when so many potato acres were abandoned.

“Yield is calculated on the acres that were actually put through the harvester,” MacIsaac says. “There are a lot of [unharvested] acres out there that we really can’t put a number on.”

MacIsaac added adverse weather during the growing season and harvest had an impact on crop quality.

“With fresh, we’re seeing a lot more defects in terms of off-type potatoes that are misshapen or have scab or just general quality issues,” he said. “We’re also seeing overall cold damage for the potatoes that were dug later.”

MacIsaac said that on the processing side, an early frost in many parts of the country resulted in colour issues in some potato lots. Concerns about decay and the long-term viability of some stocks also led to heavier than normal output from the farms to processing facilities early in the storage season, he added.

MacIsaac anticipated that this early movement, coupled with a smaller crop, would result in higher potato prices in early 2019.

In the United States, total potatoproduction was 452.6 million hundredweight in 2018, according to November figures released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This is up 2.4per cent from 2017 crop, which totalled 442 million hundredweight. The overall potato yield in the United States last year was pegged at 444 hundredweight of potatoes per acre, which is up three per cent from 2017.

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