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Pandemic Caused Drop in U.S. Potato Exports to Canada

After crop losses last fall in Manitoba and Alberta, french fry processors were forced to import potatoes from the United States to fill increased processing demand, however those imports slid in mid-March as the COVID-19 pandemic caused french fry demand to drop off, the May 20 issue of North American Potato Market News says.

U.S. trade data shows during January to March Canada imported 1.187 million cwt of fresh potatoes from the U.S. — up 9.1 per cent from the same period the previous year. Monthly imports though show January imports jumped 86.2 per cent, February rose 18.6 per cent with March imports dropping 29 per cent.

The report notes imports are unlikely to resume anytime soon as processors are telling local growers they may not be able to use all of the remaining potatoes growers have in storage.

“However, we believe that Canadian potato chip manufacturers may need to import more chip potatoes during June and July than they did last year. That may allow the country’s fresh potato imports to exceed the year-earlier volume during those months,” the report says.

Dehydrated potato product imports from the U.S. were also up in the first quarter. Canada imported 25.40 million lbs during the first three months of 2020, up three per cent from the previous year. Canada also imported some potato flakes from the European Union, the report notes.

“The Canadian imports include a substantial volume of product in the “value added” dehy category. Overall, Canada is the largest single destination for dehydrated potato products in the global market,” the report says. North American Potato Market News does not expect a big downturn in these imports during the next few months.

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