[deck]Thanks in large part to Mother Nature, 2015 turned out to be another record year for potato yields in Canada.[/deck]
2015 WAS generally a very good year for potato production in Canada. Excellent growing conditions across most parts of the country lead to a second straight record-setting year for potato yields.
According to Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada, the national yield per acre for the 2015 crop was 305 hundredweight. That’s up from the then record high of 297 hundredweight per acre set in 2014.
MacIsaac says the yield increase can be attributed largely to Mother Nature, although the season didn’t look all that promising at first. “It was a bit of a surprise because not all of the areas started out at planting time in the spring with what you would consider to be ideal conditions compared to a year earlier.”
However, crops in some areas that weren’t irrigated managed to get enough moisture by summer, he says, and it turned out to be generally a good fall for harvesting across the country, with very few acres left unharvested.
GOOD GROWING conditions in 2015 also contributed an outstanding crop in terms of quality.
“Some years you have areas where you have storage issues and quality problems in terms of pack out and so on, and we haven’t seen those yet. We’ve seen really good quality in almost all areas,” says MacIsaac.
“Most of what’s been put in the bin will get packed into a marketable category, so yield and quality are both there.”
TOTAL PRODUCTION is also up across Canada, thanks to all those record yields but also because contracted processing potato acres increased significantly in 2015.
Slightly more than four million hundredweight of potatoes were produced in 2015 than in the previous year. Total potato product climbed to just under 105 million hundredweight, a 4.1 per cent increase from 2014.
“P.E.I. would be the one major growing area that had a little less yield than 2014, but you look at all other areas – Manitoba had a record-breaking yield, Alberta had a record-breaking yield, Quebec had a super yield,” says MacIsaac. “You just go from province to province and that’s been the result. It’s put more potatoes in our bins.”
WITH ALL those potatoes put in the bins, it’s not surprising that the January numbers for Canada’s storage holdings for 2015 are also up from a year ago.
MacIsaac says while there are potatoes in storage on the processing side, this isn’t such a bad thing since much of this can be attributed to increases in processing potato contracts (mostly in Manitoba) in 2015 compared to the previous two years.
“There will be some open processing in there that’s not contracted but … technically a lot of those are looked after,” he says.
Fresh supply in storage is also higher than a year ago, but MacIsaac notes that strong movement in Ontario, Quebec and other provinces in December reduced holdings considerably.
THE SUPPLY situation has contributed to sluggish potato prices, MacIsaac says.
“Pricing seems to be a little challenging, mostly due to our own situation. We tend to blame our problems on someone else sometimes, but that’s not the issue this year,” he says.
“Our crop is large in Canada, but certainly the crop in the U.S. is not particularly large this year due to poorer growing conditions in their main areas … that’s reduced their yield.”
MacIsaac says the fact that our dollar is at its lowest value compared to U.S. currency in a dozen years is certainly a competitive advantage. He believes it’s also an excellent marketing tool that Canadian growers should strive to exploit. “It’s an opportunity that we should be looking at more closely.”