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CANADA’S JUNE 1st potato stocks increased by more than 32 per cent — or just over 3,600 hundredweight — from last year’s value. Stocks in hand were up by 25 per cent in Eastern Canada and almost 50 per cent in Western Canada. Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada, says while the amount of potatoes in storage is higher than last year, it is close to holdings in 2011, a more typical year for stocks on hand.

The supply for processors heading into summer was growing tighter due to deterioration in quality at the end of the old crop, says MacIsaac, adding that this year’s late spring in many regions has meant there hasn’t been much early crop planted which would normally allow processing plants to start up early (as was the case in 2012). This is one of the factors that has 2013 shaping up to be a better year for potato prices than 2012. “This year, the crop is late being planted. We know the acreage is down, and the supplies that we have available in storage right now of old crop are being depleted on a regular basis. So these are all three positive things that lead to the potential for better pricing,” says MacIsaac.

June 1 Stocks on Hand (000cwt)

2011 2012 2013 % Change 2012-2013
PEI 4,946 4,508 4,421 -1.9
New Brunswick 4,005 653 2,351 260.0
Quebec 1,504 1,557 1,492 -4.2
Ontario 616 413 655 58.6
EASTERN CANADA 11,071 7,131 8,919 25.0
Manitoba 3,449 1,622 2,988 84.3
Saskatchewan n/a n/a n/a n/a
Alberta 1,255 2,394 2,886 20.6
British Columbia 0 31 15 -51.6
WESTERN CANADA 4,704 4,047 5,889 45.5
TOTAL CANADA 15,798 11,178 14,809 32.5
Source: UPGC

This year, the crop is late being planted. We know the acreage is down, and the supplies … of old crop are being depleted on a regular basis. So these are all three positive things that lead to the potential for better pricing.

Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of UPGC

ANOTHER ENCOURAGING pricing signal is what’s happening south of the border. As reported in our article on 2013 potato production estimates in this issue of Spud Smart, planted acres are down significantly in Canada this year. Growers in the United States have also planted fewer potatoes.

According to the annual June potato production estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the total area of planted acres to fall potatoes is 957,400 acres — a decrease of 49,700 acres or 4.9 per cent from 2012. As is the case in Canada, much of this decrease can be attributed to declines in processing contract volumes. The biggest acreage cuts in 2013 are in western U.S. growing areas, and in Nebraska. Growers in the biggest potato-producing state, Idaho, reduced their acreage by 8.1 per cent. In Washington, the nation’s second largest producer, the planted area is down three per cent.

Bruce Huffaker, market analyst and publisher of the North American Potato Market News, says if the yield on fall potatoes in the United States matches the 2013 trend, production would total nearly 408-million hundredweight — a four per cent decline from 2012 production. Huffaker adds that while several growing areas east of the Rocky Mountains are reporting crop problems, there is the potential for this year’s yield to match or exceed the trend due to excellent growing conditions in the Pacific Northwest, where 62 per cent of the 2012 crop was grown.

CROP CHALLENGES continue in Europe. Huffaker reports that hot, dry weather has replaced earlier wet weather that delaying planting and affected plant development in many potato-growing areas in Europe. The mid-July heat wave is expected to impact supplies of early processing potatoes.

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