Total potato storage holdings were down 18.5 per cent on June 1 compared to the year before due to lower volumes and storage issues.
Canada’s potato storage holdings as of June 1 totalled just under 16.4 million hundredweight, according to figures from the United Potato Growers of Canada. That’s an 18.5 per cent decline from the same period a year ago, when total holdings amounted to a little over 20.1 million hundredweight of potatoes.
In Eastern Canada, the year-to-year decrease was just over 22 per cent mainly due to substantial declines in storage holdings in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. Led by the nearly 29 per cent decline in Manitoba, Western Canada saw a drop in potato storage holdings of almost 14 per cent.
Interviewed by Spud Smart in June, Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of United Potato Growers of Canada, said you’d have to go back seven years to see Canada’s potato stocks so low at the end of the reporting season.
MacIsaac said last year’s difficult harvest resulted in storage issues for many producers, but the main reason for the drop was fewer potatoes actually made it into the bin due to the many acres left unharvested in most potato-producing provinces.
“British Columbia is the only one that has more potatoes in storage than a year ago,” he said.
According to MacIsaac, potato stocks destined for processing were down in all provinces and were the lowest they’d been on June 1 since before the French fry market expansion began about three years ago. For this reason, he said, processors would continue to be squeezed for supply until the new crop became available.
“We’re almost three million hundredweight or 16 per cent below where we were a year ago. There’s no way that the numbers work on that, and so what’s been happening is provinces have had to import potatoes to keep their processing plants going,” MacIsaac said.
“Potatoes are coming in every day to Manitoba and especially P.E.I. to feed those plants,” he added. “The only way that we’re able to get to the end of the storage season is on imported product.”
MacIsaac saidthese potatoes were coming in from Idaho, North Dakota and Maine, and in this country, from Alberta.
“Alberta is the only province in Canada that has had some ability to supply the other areas,” he said.
On the fresh side, table stock potatoes were down more than 31 per cent from a year ago and lower than they’d been since the end of the reporting period in 2010.
As a result, many packing sheds are currently only able to supply their long-term customers, MacIsaac said, also adding that the fresh storage situation heading into summer would have a positive effect on pricing and profitability for producers.
MacIsaac said Canadian seed holdings on June 1 were down 61 per cent compared to last year, which would limit the transfer of flex potatoes into other sectors once planting was complete.
In the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the 13 states that report potato stocks had 67.4 million hundredweight of potatoes in storage on June 1. That exceeded year-earlier holdings by 3.6 million hundredweight, a 5.7 per cent increase.
MacIsaac said the old crop appeared to be moving out at a good clip south of the border, which was encouraging news for processing potato growers in Canada.
“The pipeline will be empty in most states with the exception of Idaho, so that’s always nice,” he said.