ViewpointsEye On The NationSpring 2020 Eye on the Nation

Spring 2020 Eye on the Nation



By: Dan Sawatzky, general manager of the Keystone Potato Producers Association

In the midst of a mild winter, growers in Manitoba are looking forward to another growing season. Record attendance at Manitoba Potato Production Days indicated not only strong support for the planning committee and the trade show/speaker line up, but also a resilience to look at ways of improving potato production on the heels of a couple tough harvest seasons.

Storage issues continue to pop up due to the saturated field conditions during harvest. Processors are juggling local supplies and deliveries with imports to augment the short crop. Although run times will be reduced the industry is managing the situation the best they can.

The Simplot expansion has been receiving potatoes since January as it ramps up production capacity.

The expansion has created the opportunity for additional acres and volume which has stretched the ability of current growers to meet this increase — especially given the limitations caused by recent harvests. The business risk management programs have not been very effective given the low level of coverage especially in the situation of unharvested acreage. The risks and ability to deal with them have brought reality to the forefront of growers’ situations. There has been some interest shown, although limited, by a handful on new growers — for them it will be a new opportunity and learning curve.

Meetings over the winter with the provincial government and Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation has resulted in a change to crop insurance coverage for this upcoming year, through a ramp up of yield contribution in coverage calculation. This comes as yield improvements in recent years haven’t been reflected in the current yield method calculation. This is a welcome improvement for risk coverage, but further improvements will be needed before we are likely to see a return to higher producer participation.

Seed potatoes are in tight supply for Manitoba growers. Contract negotiations are ongoing locally, same as they are across most of the North American potato growing regions.

Have a safe and enjoyable planting season.

B.C. Vegetable Marketing Commission logo

British Columbia

By: Hugh Reynolds with Reynalda Farms in Delta, B.C.

The last few years have been a fortuitous window for British Columbia growers with both fair prices and shortages of good-sized potatoes back East. In the future, a return to normal weather will mean eastern potato stock shortages will dissipate, and eastern agencies will not be as happy to receive our extra supply. B.C. growers should be cognizant of this likely occurrence — barring another black swan event in 2020.  Keep to your long-term crop rotations because when the supply is high, only the highest quality will sell.

P.E.I. Potatoes logo

Prince Edward Island

By: Jason Hayden, chairman of the P.E.I. Potato Board

To start the year, the board has adopted an updated strategic plan to guide our activities for the next five years. We welcomed all of the input provided by growers at our district meetings and the effort of the board directors and staff to review and refine all drafts. This will provide the touchstone to ensure all of our activities are focused as we move our industry ahead.

The winter months offer many educational opportunities. Pesticide applicator training sessions and agronomy initiative for marketable yield (AIM) workshops have been on-going since December. The final AIM workshops are scheduled for March 12 and 13 and covered issues caused by soil compaction and how to both prevent and mitigate compaction. A wireworm webinar happened on March 24.

The International Potato Technology Expo and Conference was held in Charlottetown, P.E.I, on Feb. 21-22. The trade show and conference sessions provided excellent opportunities to learn about the latest technology available to modernize production techniques and covered topics ranging from precision agriculture, farm labour to new potato varieties.

Contract negotiations are a key focus this spring, as are efforts to balance supply and demand for the fresh, processing and seed sectors for the remainder of the shipping season. As we look toward planting the 2020 crop, we strongly encourage all growers to plant only for known markets as a return to “normal” crop yields and harvests across North America could result in an oversupply for 2020/21. Given the cost of production and the risk growers take producing potatoes under increasingly erratic weather conditions, overproduction and low prices would be a serious financial setback.

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