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A glance at 2011’s production figures is cringe-worthy, due to the poor crop conditions in many areas during the growing season which drastically lowered crop yields. Statistics Canada’s 2012 production estimates are much improved, with totals that are slightly above trend-line averages. “We’ll adjust these numbers again in January, but the crop is recorded at being up about 8.6 per cent over the previous year,” says Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada. “This year’s yield is estimated to be 275.5 hundredweight per acre, due to better growing conditions in almost all areas.”

Additionally, the planted area was very close to the harvested acres, says MacIsaac. “Acreage increased based on additional processing contracts, and growing conditions increased yields,” he explains. However, growers should be cautious about relying too much on the Statistics Canada figures. “Those were the mid-November numbers,” says MacIsaac. “Some areas are being challenged with some storage issues in the west and the east and also higher cullage rates, so we’ll have to see if that will bring down our net production.”

SUPPLY IS UP, says MacIsaac, but this was expected after a good growing season in 2012. “Compared to a year ago on Jan. 1, our holdings are up 13.1 per cent,” he says. “But we have to keep in mind that 2011 was a year that had below-average production in most provinces. It’s important to keep it relative.

“Our holdings were 65 million hundredweight on Jan. 1, 2013, versus 57.5 million hundredweight on Jan. 1, 2012, so we’re still above average.” MacIsaac adds.” A lot of that production increase is in Manitoba. Manitoba’s holdings, compared to a year ago, are up 25 per cent.”

Other notable production increases occurred in New Brunswick (31 per cent) and Alberta (19 per cent).

2012 Canadian Potato Production Estimates

Province Planted Acres Harvested Acres Yield (cwt/acre) Production (cwt)
N.L. 500 500 175 88,000
P.E.I. 89,500 87,500 285 24,938,000
N.S. 1,900 1,900 220 418,000
N.B. 53,500 52,500 265 13,913,000
Que. 41,300 40,800 268 10,938,000
Ont. 39,800 39,500 190 7,505,000
Man. 76,000 75,500 275 20,763,000
Sask. 7,000 6,500 250 1,625,000
Alta. 55,700 54,000 344 18,576,000
B.C. 6,500 6,000 285 1,710,000
Canada 371,700 364,700 275 100,474,000

Source: Statistics Canada, Nov. 16, 2012

PRICES ARE DOWN in Canada. “Manitoba reported [recently] that their fresh prices are down compared to a year ago, and right across the country it’s a consistent story. That’s related to the ability to move product in the marketplace, and supply,” says MacIsaac.

According to MacIsaac, movement is slow in almost all areas of the country, with most provinces reporting difficulties moving product into the marketplace—which is partly due to the glut in the U.S. supply. “With the U.S. supply up, it’s become almost impossible in some areas to ship potatoes into the U.S. With the number of potatoes they have to sell, they’re shipping them into Canada at below-competitive prices. In P.E.I., for example, the prices are 34 cents lower per ten-pound bag than last year at this time.”

However, the fall season saw some excellent movement for processors. “The processors have been running really hard throughout the fall—there was good demand for the product, and they have worked diligently to keep ahead of storage issues” says MacIsaac.

Overall, the Canadian crop appears to be in a fairly good position heading into 2013.

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