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Before making marketing decisions, consider the decrease in potato production estimates for Canada released mid-October by United Potato Growers of Canada. Any downward pressure on prices will not be due to supply.

Production estimates have dropped 1.26 per cent from 97 million hundredweight in September to 95.8 million hundredweight, according to mid-October production estimate values from UPGC. “We’ve basically lowered our expectations of total production by two million hundredweight,” says Kevin MacIsaac, UPGC’s general manager. Estimates decreased 7.9 per cent for New Brunswick, 2.0 per cent for Quebec and increased 0.3 per cent for Prince Edward Island over that period, while remaining the same in all other potato-producing provinces.

Fresh potato production is estimated at 24.9 million hundredweight, representing a 4.2 per cent decrease in fresh production from 2010, and a considerable drop, according to MacIsaac. “That’s a million hundredweight less potatoes to ship into the fresh market today—this is quite a significant number,” he says. If prices were to have some downward pressure on them it is not because of supply. “There just isn’t any room for discussion on lowering prices when we have these numbers.”

“If growers are given the options to market potatoes at prices lower than what they deem is profitable for their margins—they don’t really have to. The supply has to come from somewhere for the marketplace, and there is no extra supply available in the country that we can see. It should bode well for good prices,” says MacIsaac.

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The volume of the spring U.S. crop initially placed downward pressure on prices. After Florida entered the market with above average yields in May and June, prices took a small dip. Since then the market has had lower than expected supplies due to below average yields in other potato-producing regions. The out-of-field shipping season for the northern tier of production areas in the United States was compressed while growers waited for potatoes initially scheduled to come off much earlier in the season to size up and achieve decent yields, creating a temporary oversupply situation, says Lee Frankel, president and CEO of the United Potato Growers of America. “Basically it compressed eight weeks of planned shipments into a five- to six-week period,” says Frankel.

Now that more potatoes have gone through the suberization process and growers have a better handle on total production and how much they have to sell for the balance of the marketing year, supplies have come back to a level that reflects the overall size of the crop, says Frankel.

Prices have begun to strengthen since supplies have come back down from their overly accelerated pace during late September and early October. “My expectation is that fresh market prices will continue to rise. The total overall crop looks similar to what it was last year for the fresh market,” says Frankel.

Market information courtesy of the UPGC, UPGA and industry partners: Bayer CropScience and Bruce Huffaker, market analyst and publisher of North American Potato Market News.